This is how Herr Doktor Professor Hüning (yes, that’s a possible form of address in Germany. No, no one uses it.) started his lecture today: “I hope you had a good weekend and enjoyed the sun. Soon the good weather will be over, and it will be much more fun to go to class.”

And on that happy note…


Pop quiz: What is the most linguistically diverse country? The least? (answers at the bottom of the post)


I have literally no idea what happened in Syntax today. Figuring it out is on the to-do list for tomorrow, along with BIRTHDAY GROCERY SHOPPING! (What vegetables? ALL the vegetables! Who’s going to eat them? ME!)

The issues with syntax were not made more bearable by the fact that this is the class that I have to leave early every week from now on, simply to be “only” 15 or 20 minutes late to my Russian class, which is at a different university. When I finally got to Russian, I was shocked to see that there were 20 students in the class, making it far and away the largest upper-level Russian class I have ever seen. I was pleased to discover that my abilities fall exactly in the middle, with the outer range defined by a few native Ukrainians and some students who probably wouldn’t have passed the placement test, but who automatically leveled-up by being enrolled in a B2 class last semester.

This class is a two-hour block focused on writing and reading, and then on Wednesdays there’s supposed to be a two-hour block for speaking and listening comprehension (I think dividing up the skills like that is dumb, but unfortunately, I don’t rule the language-teaching world–yet). Sadly, there aren’t enough people signed up for the Wednesday class, so the university cancelled it. Professor Lischitzki told us to come anyway, and if the attendance this week reaches critical mass, the class will go back on the schedule. If it doesn’t, I will be greatly distressed.

The final adventure of the day was to go back to the FU for a tandem partner meeting. The tandem (aka language exchange) program at the FU is really active–they set up 1000 partnerships last year. The basic theory is that you meet for 2 hours, once a week (alternately, however often you want, for as long as you want, but they recommend a 2-hours-per-week minimum), and you spend half of each meeting learning your target language, and the other half teaching your native (or near-native) language. You can apply anytime online, but at the beginning of the semester they have an event where you can talk to people and try to find someone who you actually like. That seems very valuable; I availed myself of the program when Nathan and I were here for the summer, but it didn’t really work out, mainly because neither I nor my partner, Malte, knew what we were doing or how to give our sessions any structure.

As we walked into the huge lecture hall (the same one where I took the DSH), the representatives of the Self-Study Language Center handed us sheets of paper that said “I’m looking for _____________. I’m offering ____________” so we could find our new LLFs (life-long friends) without having to actually speak. The room had been sectioned off based on language–Offering Spanish, seeking German/offering German, seeking Spanish- left front. Offering a Nordic language, seeking German, or the other way around- top middle. And so on. The difficulty was if neither side of your equation contained German. Then you got relegated to the very very back, in the “Foreign language – foreign language” section. Oh, we were a scraggly group with the one lone guy offering Persian and seeking I don’t care what, an American looking for German, and a Bulgarian looking for English. I toyed with the idea of trying out all my Bulgarian phrases on the last one, but decided against it (“Excuse me! I am fair without makeup and rosy-cheeked without blush. I want to eat you and your distaff!”)*.

Those are the actual things I can say in Bulgarian.

“Give us back our clothes, Grandpa!” (I can say that one, too.)

As we started milling around, I fought to clear the image of that painful conversation from my mind. Fortunately, the sudden (and unexpected) presence of a Russian seeking English helped clear my mind. My end of the conversation was a bit of a train wreck: “Мне кажется am лучшен, cuándo читаем Artikeln und, you know, обсуждаем их zusammen.” Russian-Seeking-English was very forgiving. Her name is Olga, and she smiles a lot. Like, a lot. She’s not from Petersburg or Moscow, has heard of Cherepovets (but didn’t know where it is), and is finishing up her master’s in German as a Foreign Language. She’s also super nice, and we’re meeting on Thursday in the space egg library. Maybe she likes birthday vegetables, too.


The most linguistically diverse country is Papua New Guinea, which has over 800 languages. That means that .1% of the world’s population has 13% of the world’s languages. The least diverse, not surprisingly, is North Korea.

Fun fact: Germany has about 60 languages (according to one source–somewhat surprisingly, it’s extremely difficult to count languages), 40 of which were brought in by immigrants. That means that there are TWENTY living languages native to Germany. Granted, it all depends on where you draw the line between “language” and “dialect”…