Frankfurt Saturday Update

So how was my Saturday? I’m glad you asked.

1. The book fair was open to the public today, and it was completely insane; there were times when it was impossible to move forward because so many people were jamming the aisles. Really sort of amazing. Like Comic Con, only larger, and with more books. Tomorrow will apparently be even more insane since they allow sales of the books on the last day. Can’t wait.

2. My evening event went well; people seemed to have fun with the reading and the question and answer period went smoothly. I signed several books, met and chatted with some very nice fans, and then went to dinner with my German editor Sascha, Carolin my handler, and Miriam, who works with the Consulate. Good food and great conversation.

3. I am finding that my understanding of German is improving as I go along; instead of following 30% of what’s being said I figure I can understand about half, most of the time. Who knows, by the time I leave I may actually understand most people here. Of course, I still speak German like a drunk lemur. I don’t expect that will improve much. Alas.

And yes, still having a fantastic time. I really like Germany.

24 thoughts on “Frankfurt Saturday Update

  1. What’s not to like? Books, beer and babes (with no offence to your wife, it’s just alliterative). And not necessarily in that order..

  2. I took German in high school and college, but I haven’t had a chance to use it since. I can understand bits and pieces when I hear it in movies. It would be interesting to see how much I could understand in a total immersion setting. I suspect even a drunk lemur would be a step up from my current skill at speaking German.
    The one phrase I’ll always remember from my high school German book is “Vorsicht, Carl! Stossen Sie nicht Ihr Kapf an die Lampe!” I’m sure I’ve butchered it, and it doesn’t often come in handy.

  3. I’m wondering where you gained expertise in how a drunk lemur speaks. Would you care to enlighten your adoring fans?

  4. Just if anyone wonders, he read one paragraph of fuzzy planet in German but I think no one recorded, everyone was just too fascinated to hear him speak like…well a drunken lemur.

    That actually struck me so hard, that my German accent in English intensified so that he did not understand my question at first (guess he was not the only drunk lemur)

    Anyway, was a great presentation (actually my girlfriend found him tremendously charming for a sci-fi author) ;)

  5. I assume we’re all talking about ring-tailed lemurs here. It couldn’t be as bad as a red-ruffed lemur. Those guys are in serious need of a twelve step program.

  6. Dave: I understand what you mean about learning a foreign language versus actually remembering it/using it. I worked, for 8.5 yrs, at a grocery store which catered to an international, but largely Hispanic, clientele. I took French, starting in first grade, for a total of nine years. I never got the chance to practice it regularly (I’m in TX, alas, not our neighboring state to the east), so I forgot fairly large chunks. And I never did take Spanish in school at all.

    However, when I started working at the grocery store, I realized that knowing the French really helped me pick up the Spanish. They’re both Romance languages, after all. I once had a customer tell me that her Spanish-speaking grandmother and her Italian-speaking mother in law could have entire conversations, each speaking their native tongue, and they could understand each other, if not perfectly, at least well enough to understand the gist of what the other was saying. At this point I’d have to say that my grasp of Spanish is probably stronger than my grasp of French, although the Spanish has started to slip now that I haven’t been immersed in it daily like I was when I worked at the grocery store.

    Seems like you’re having a great time, Scalzi. Keep having fun!

  7. My husband and I joke that we are, “Wonder Twins–form of a German kindergartner!” I do the vocabulary and husband does the grammar. Together we speak terrible pidgeon Deutsch.

  8. D. M. Domini:
    According to Google, it’s “Ich immer noch Deutsch sprechen wie ein Betrunkener Lemuren.” Now the question is whether Google can outperform a drunk lemur. It looks like it’s at least in the ballpark to me.

  9. D.M. Domini & Dave Branson: Actually, it would be “Ich spreche Deutsch immer noch wie ein besoffene Lemur.” Mostly just word order and lemur is nominative here. Besoffen is a little more colloquial than betrunken, which isn’t wrong.

    Anyway, I have to say I’m impressed with John’s linguistic skills. I had 4 years in high school (from a real German, so at least my pronunciation is good; I’m the only one in the family who can’t do an “American” accent) and minored in German Lit in college. Then it lay fallow for close to 15 years. It took me like 6 months to go from 30 % to 50 %. Funny thing is, I had John pegged as the sort of person who took French in school. Don’t know why.

    Also, expect your understanding to plummet when you get to Bavaria. I’ve been here a dozen years and have zero problems except in crowded rooms and I STILL have huge problems understanding Bavarians when they’re on TV. And don’t forget when you’re down there that it’s “Grüß Gott,” not “Guten Morgen/Tag/Abend”. You don’t want to get called a “Sauprieß” (which is Bavarian for damyankee).

  10. Yeah. I think “ein Betrunkener Lemuren” would have been drunk in the same way that a glass of water gets drunk

  11. Many thanks for the reading yesterday — and even more for the books. I made a detour over Frankfurt, though I would have preferred to meet you in Stuttgart or Tübingen. In Swabia, I would recommend “Zwiebelkuchen” (onion tart) and/or “Maultaschen” (pasta filled with meat and vegetables, somewhat similar to Wan Tan or Ravioli, but bigger).
    About rebooting old stories: This happens at the moment with Perry Rhodan, a German pulp Science Fiction serial. Its a big shared universe, and some kind of writing school for German Science Fiction authors over generations.
    Body exchange showed up in “The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham” by H.G. Wells. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11870
    “When the Yogurt Took Over” — maybe not too far from reality http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/08/29/from-guts-to-brains-%E2%80%93-eating-probiotic-bacteria-changes-behaviour-in-mice/

  12. @ Redski, yeah, see, even after all this time I still have trouble declining articles. It’s my biggest weakness. I blame it on English doing away with all those unnecessary grammatical frills. (I also misspelled Saupreiß.)

    I second the Maultaschen (it’s what I had for dinner last night, fried with some egg and cheese) and the Zwiebelkuchen, though it’s not really a tart, more somewhere between deepdish pizza and cake topped with onions and a creme fraiche sauce.

  13. You know that song in the original animated “The Cat in the Hat” that lists the ways to say “cat in the hat” in several languages? That’s where I imagine the drunken lemur discussion ending up..

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