June 10th, 2010

random questions about learning German

I've never really studied German in depth, but I've been reading more Rilke: English with German translation and I find some things about this language to be very intriguing - I like how words are sort of mashed together to form these immense new words. like die Selbstbeherrschung for self-control... or die Entzugserscheinungen! (which actually - I do not know what the meaning is.) Do other languages do this?

Also it seems like a great deal of German vocabulary pertains to philosophy or psychology, and that too is very fascinating.

So for those of you who study German,

1. what were/are your main reasons or incentives?

2. what is the most challenging aspect of this language? The grammar, the pronunciation/phonetics, etc?

3. what keeps you going and wanting to learn it?
from a painting

World War I-era correspondence

I apologize if this is off-topic, but since I've seen linguaphiles helping out with things like this before, I felt that it would be all right :)

The story behind it seems rather hard to believe, but here in my town a shoe box was found on the side of the road with a bunch of German letters, postcards, and photographs ranging from the German Empire in 1895, through the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, and into 1956 West Germany. The latest item in the box is a Swiss ski pass from the 1970s. The group I'm working with to try to decipher the owner's background has already achieved quite a lot, but we feel that these letters will be undoubtedly helpful in understanding his life better.

That being said, I've trying to decipher the earliest letter for the past two days; it was written on 6 April 1916 and the handwriting is in what seems to be Sütterlin or a precursor thereof, and although I've been able to transcribe quite a bit, there's still a lot of uncertainty in the contents of the letter. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Here's what I've achieved so far:
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under the water?

what does "そうか。ずっと水の下だったんだ。" means?

i don't think she's talking about real water, but... i look it up in dictionary and idiom dictionary but found none.

it was a line in haibane renmei anime episode 8.

you can watch the part here:

i don't know if it's dubbed in japanese or english, though. i don't have any earphone with me right now0_0.
Bear Nuts


So I've gotten embroiled in an lengthy argument with an acquaintance over "remedy" and "remediate". Now I'm perfectly willing to admit they have some difference in usage (e.g. "remediate" is less common except in legal writing, and for some reason is used a LOT intransitively in education contexts), but I contend both verbs are perfectly legitimate in the meaning "rectify, correct, fix a situation, a problem".

My friend is quite insistent they are not. I've utterly given up trying to convince him, given every single evidence I've looked at confirmed my opinion, but he contends that every shred of evidence actually confirms HIS opinion, and concluded by comparing me to a flat-earther (!).

Some of the evidence is about as reliable as a rubber I-beam: Dictionary.com redirects a search for "remediate" to "mediate", which he pointedly ignored, and the difference in definition formulation in OED ("To put right, reform (a state of things); to rectify, make good." vs. "To provide a remedy for, redress, counteract; to take remedial action against."; both entries are pretty recent AFAICT, though the "remediate" one seems to me to merge legalistic and general elements) has more to do with their efforts to avoid repetitiveness in similar words than a difference in meaning (several of the examples are very similar).

Anyway, I'm throwing myself to the wolves: am I making an utter idiotic asshole of myself here?
bird in a teacup

Beginning French Recommendations

I would pretend that I’m at least qualified enough to greet you in French, but it would be a lie.

I come to you today seeing recommendations for a book that will help me with learning French. I’ll be taking an introductory course at university this coming fall and I’ve gathered from user reviews that the textbook we’ll be using (Mais Oui!) is disappointing at best. I think the gist of one review, which may not have been on Amazon, was that it would take an incredible teacher to drag students through such an awful book.

I don’t need verb books or dictionaries, but something more along the lines of a teach-yourself-at-home sort of course that I can work through this summer just to give me some bearings in the language. I’ve taken four years of Latin, so I at least have some experience with learning a foreign language, but for some reason I’m really nervous about learning French and I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep up in the course if I’m not already a few steps ahead. Latin, after all, never required me to be able to hold a conversation.

Naturally, I don’t expect to learn a language in two months. I’d just like a sort of passing familiarity with the road map, if you will, so I don’t panic when anything especially nasty comes up. I’m especially worried about my pronunciation and accent being atrocious, if that has any effect on recommendations.

I’d appreciate any wisdom you can offer, and I apologize if this question has been frequently asked and I’ve just missed it. Thank you. :)

P.S. I wondered if the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Learning French is a waste of money, or if it would be okay for my purposes.