please don’t take my translations here too seriously, oh and am I now taking requests?

sunset in Dachau a while back

Not that I normally do this, but I guess now I’m taking requests. Asked a friend what she thought I should write about, and she had kind of a funny response.

Funny haha not funny weird…well, I suppose a little funny weird.

Don’t start getting ideas, though. I’m not a trained monkey here simply to do your bidding. You can’t just contact me and assume I’ll write about whatever your heart desires. That’s not how it works over here.

To be fair, I asked her what I should write about. It’s not her fault.

I’m the curator of this here place, by the way. Or if I want to make it sound/look more French, I simply spell it curatoeur. I’m not even sure if that’s a French word.

I wasn’t very good in French when I was in school.

They let you pick your own name in language classes, though. It sounds so preposterous to have this thirteen-year-old properly learning a new language for the first time saying, ‘Je m’appelle Ken,’ or, ‘Je m’appelle Lahikmajoe,’ or what have you.

Any of my friends from that time will tell you, ‘il s’appelle Xavier.’

Go ahead. Ask them.

Loved that name.

Since I was a teenager.


I tell Miriam that’d be a great name for a boy, and she rejects it out of hand.

Which is funny.

Our daughter has two given names. I don’t say her name online a lot, just because of privacy issues and all. At some point, she’s going to want to make choices about how to present herself in the sphere of the web, and I’d rather she not have a lifetime of stuff already come up when you google her name.

Her middle name, or as the Germans say her ‘second first name‘ but please don’t take my translations here too seriously, is my Nana’s name and my mom’s second first name.

I’m a translator in my other job, by the way, and I like to play around here. Like I say, don’t take my translations here too seriously. Most of my translations on this blog are meant to be tongue in cheek.

Think about it. Some of my readers are English speakers with rudimentary German. I’m looking at you Elaine, or you Troy. Others are German natives, but their English is quite good. That’s what I tell friends when they ask how Miriam’s English is. Her english is quite good. Really.

Recently a few friends said they’d love to meet Miriam, but they were worried their German wasn’t up to snuff. I chuckled and said, ‘Yeah, neither is mine.’

She talks a bit of the old Blighty bleety. She makes English words with her mouth. She’s significantly better in English than most of the English students I’ve had over the years.

Anywho…looks like I’m out of time. Didn’t get to the topic request.

Sorry, Heidi.

Next time, yeah?

Oh, by the way. Look up in the sky the next few nights. The Wolf Moon is getting big and beautiful. I was howling at her last night, and I think I might’ve heard another howl in the distance.

In Munich?

Wolves in Bavaria?

That can’t be right.

First Susanne became obsessed and then I decided to offer a new blogging course

Ken at Axioma

You have your people. I’m sure you look around your circle of friends and say to yourself, ‘I love what they’re doing…wish I could help them out more.‘ Well, as much as you love your people, and I’m sure you do, my people just keep creating new things and I want to do what I can to let everybody know about them.

One of my people – one of the better ones, I might add – is Susanne, and she’s recently become obsessed with blogging and social media. I looked on with both amusement and pride last year, as her first blogposts started showing up on my newsfeed.

Here’s her most recent post, and I’m sure you’ll see why I find her writing so endearing: Desperado (by Susanne Plassman) Leave it to her to take a topic like suicide and make it inspiring.

I reached out to her and said, ‘Hey, I know something about the whole blogging lark, so drop me a line if you need any guidance.

Almost immediately, she responded with, ‘Yes, let’s talk! Am besten Gestern*!‘ That’s how she is, by the way. A theatre chick with all the positive associations in tow.

Susanne and I are conspiring to do some projects together and I’m sure I’ll be talking about them here and on social media, but in the meantime…her predicaments while getting started in blogging made me think, ‘There must be so many other locals who need some tips and pointers on this whole social media thing.


So, I talked to the language school Axioma, which is centrally located in the Maxvorstadt district of Munich, and we’ve decided to offer a course in social media. Here’s a link to the Social Media / Blogging von Anfang an course. Click on it, and see how much of your high school or college German you can remember.

*rough translation of ‘am besten Gestern‘: I need this yesterday!





Beamers & the real power in Bavaria

Church and State in Bavaria’s Hauptstadt

Please turn on the Beamer, so we can start the meeting in time,’ my colleague says. 

Huh? The Beamer?

Are they giving me a company car? 

Wow, I like the direction this is going. 

Nope. Not a chance. Instead, this is another example of them having funny English-sounding nicknames for things that those of us with an Anglo mother tongue would never have thought of. Another false friend

In this case, it’s what the Germans call an overhead projector. A Beamer

I’m not kidding. 

It ‘beams‘ they assure me. Like ‘beam me up Scotty‘, but for real. It beams their presentations and visuals up on the screen. Hence Beamer

What makes it a false friend, though?

Well, we already use Beamer for something else. Not sure about the Brits or the rest of the Commonwealth, but us Yanks? 

We use it as a nickname for a BMW. That’s right. If you’re tooling round in an auto made by the  Bayerische Motoren Werke, that’s a Beamer, baby!
Now I’m looking back at the above photo with the church at Mariahilfplatz. Beam me up, indeed. 

German words and not talking opera

She looks somehow optimistic, doesn’t she? What’s that she’s holding in her hand anyway?

You know, it can be a bit odd when you tell someone you like living in Germany. The person cocks his head, and either says it outright or visibly thinks, ‘But you could live in Spain or Italy…or anywhere. Why Germany?’

Then you admit that you actually enjoy speaking the German language…oh, and that you genuinely like the people.

The person you’re talking to cannot fathom that last bit. It is simply unfathomable.

Germans are boring. Everyone knows that (they’re not boring, but stereotypes are persistent). Actually, some Germans are painfully dull. However, I’ve met some Brits and dare I say even more Americans who’ve got the personality of drying paint. Every culture has its share of the socially inept. The comically uncurious.

Germans are humourless (aside from slapstick – many Germans adore Mr Bean, after all – the German sense of humour is  utterly language dependent…you’ve got to know the parlance to get the jokes). They’ve got a sense of humour. Do some individuals take themselves too seriously? Well, sure. Of course. I avoid those. I seek out the ones who see the lighter side of life here. The ones who can laugh at themselves.

And finally? Germans are orderly rule followers. Well, this one’s kind of true. It is true. There are exceptions, but on the whole there is a social order here. People do what they’re expected. They break rules and sometimes they lie, but for the most part rules are there to be adhered to.

Is that so horrible?

It’s rather good for someone of my ilk (a bit whimsical) to live in a society where things are reliable. If a German tells you he’s going to do something, generally that something gets done. It’s sort of refreshing.

What got me thinking about all of this? Well, I read this very funny page by Ed M Wood:

My Favorite German Words, My Barber and I

Go ahead. Click on the link above. It’s not going to hurt you.

There’s so much in here I can relate to. The words he chooses are some of my favourite. The way he winds the story of him and his barber through the list of words? Yes, I like that, as well.

My friend Amy has one of those calendars where you learn a little bit of German everyday, and she regularly regales me with the more ridiculous things that the damned thing is trying to teach her. If you think Ed M Wood‘s article is funny, you should hear Amy arguing with her German calendar.

Here’s the one from yesterday:


Quatsch keine Opern!
(Translation: Be brief!)
Literally? “Don’t talk operas!”
I like that a lot. Don’t talk operas for goodness sake. Not bad advice.


toi toi


There’s a brand of portable toilets in Germany called toi toi, which I thought was odd. In French, ‘toi’ is the informal form of ‘you’, and I wondered if there was any connection. Not that ‘you you’ was a logical name for a portable toilet, but it was the only connection I had to ‘toi’.

Later, I come to find out there’s a phrase in German (toi toi toi) that you use when wishing someone luck. A friend has a big day coming up and you simply say to him, ‘toi toi toi.’ The word here sounds like ‘toy’ in English, so say that three times and you’ve just wished your German counterpart luck in whatever he’s got in front of him.

Back to the name of this particular portable toilet company. It’s only ‘toi’ doubled. Not the customary three times. Almost as if they’re wishing you luck as you go in to do your business, but not too much luck. Reserved luck.

deciding in Portuguese

deciding in Portuguese

Often, I wonder if I’m at a severe disadvantage living in a country where the language being spoken is not my own. My German is quite good – well, passable. I love the culture, as well as the language, and I’m eager to learn and understand more.

Nevertheless, there’s still this niggling thing in the back of my mind that says, ‘You’re not a native speaker and you’re most likely losing your questionable English skills.‘ Oh, the horror.

Then I found this thing on, and it somehow makes me weirdly optimistic. Most of us need a bit more optimism, so here it is:

Thinking in a Foreign Language Makes Decisions More Rational

This has nothing to do with other areas of life, but when it comes to decision making, navigating in a foreign tongue might be advantageous. Here’s how Boaz Keysar and his team at the University of Chicago put it:

‘It may be intuitive that people would make the same choices regardless of the language they are using, or that the difficulty of using a foreign language would make decisions less systematic. We discovered, however, that the opposite is true: Using a foreign language reduces decision-making biases…’

How do you like that? I wonder if the less you know a language, the more unbiased your decisions are. So, my Portuguese is nonexistent. I should only make decisions in Portuguese.

Am certain the majority of you are going to appreciate the complete and utter wonder of my resolve.

Eu fiz a minha decisão