Written while Drunk on Thoughts

25 Apr 2017

Forever a Foreigner

I've never see the word "Foreigner / der Ausländer" as derogatory. It is a noun used to describe a person from a foreign land; expatriate, immigrant, emigrant, you name it. I am a Foreigner to all but 1 country - Malaysia. 

For my German class, I was tasked to write "Was denken Sie über die deutsche Sprache?", the word schwierig (difficult) came to mind. It makes learning French a walk in the park and I've never appreciated my mother tongue more. Oh! Life before articles are simply, simple. Now I am constantly plague with "Is this der, die oder das? Wait, is this Akkusativ or Dativ?" Usually, a good 3 mins will pass before I can churn out a vaguely ok sentence in German. And not to mentioned the constant complaint that accompanies daily revision - "Why can't you be English, American, Australian, Canadian? Anyone that speaks English as their mother tongue? I've mastered English for this purpose." Poor thing, I knew that he sometimes wishes his mother tongue would be easier. So, after a lifetime of drowning and mastering (self-proclaimed) in multi-lingual culture, I have another language to conquer. 

Whilst researching on how do foreigners think about the German language, the article "Deutsch als FremdspracheFür immer fremd" came to my attention, in German of course. (If you are interested, I have the links to article below - available in German and English). I nodded while reading and kept agreeing with the Author, an young American woman who has been living in Berlin for the past 5 years, but at the same time can't help but wonder " If she, someone who is a wordsmith, is struggling with this language after 5 years, how long will it take me to be comfortable in this language?" and then the last of her words hit me, she was describing a refugee woman but I failed to see the difference between that woman and me:
I wonder whether she will ever manage to perfectly master the Dativ case. And if she does, I wonder whether anyone will listen to what she’s saying, or whether the word Foreigner will be the only thing they can hear when she opens her mouth.
Being a person that would love to soak in all cultures that will accept me with open arms, I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to be born in one culture that is a mixture of 3 cultures, grew up in another and grew old in completely different one. Languages could be my ticket into these cultures, but as with all things good, there is a downside; this particular one, the more I get to know it, the more it feels like a tool to single me out as - you know it - Foreigner.

English: http://www.zeit.de/kultur/2015-12/german-language-problems-berlin-refugees-10nach8/komplettansicht

German: http://www.zeit.de/kultur/2015-12/deutsch-sprache-lernen-fremdenfeindlichkeit-ausgrenzung/komplettansicht

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