Among the things that happened during the last weeks of inactivity in this space, an event of note was our getting the German permanent residence permit. We came to Germany on a “Green Card” visa, valid for five years and due to expire at the end of this year. Five years of stay enabled us to apply for what the Germans call “Niederlassungserlaubniss” – the permanent residence permit. The process involved, among other things, a proof of competence in the German language. We initially wondered if this implied some sort of examination, but we were told it was enough if we could converse in German with the authorities while collecting the application form and submitting it. That did not prove difficult, and three weeks after we submitted our papers we received our new visas. I do not know the exact rights this status confers upon us, but for me what’s important is that it allows us to continue living and working in Germany without having to periodically bother about renewing our visas.
My German teacher T, who kindly offered a certificate as additional proof our my language competence, was relieved to note we were spared further bureaucratic hurdles. My lessons with him continue, of course; the objective of learning the language is far from complete. (On a slightly different note: Before he left for his Christmas break, T mentioned he was going to attend a Vipassanna course in an east-German town. He had done it once a couple of years before; it was rigorous but very satisfying. Leela’s experience with Vipassana came to mind).
* * *
An encounter with a new language is one of the many exciting aspects surrounding a move to a new place. Lausanne is in the French part of Switzerland, and the last week here has taken me back to those early days in Germany, when German was as alien to me as French is now. I’ve managed so far with the most basic words – bonjour, merci, au revoir, pardon; some other words have come my way through interesting encounters.
At a restaurant when we asked for the cheque, the waiter said something like “Addition“, and nodded. We later confirmed it meant cheque.
At a local market while paying for a purchase with a hundred Franc note, the lady behind the counter said something in French of which I understood only one word: petit. No I do not have a note smaller than that, I replied, checking the contents of my purse. She then proceeded to give me the change anyway. On another occasion, I was asked if needed the “ticket“; no thanks, I said, I do not need the bill.
A couple of days back when Wife burned her hand while cooking, I decided to go to the nearby pharmacy for a cream. Since I did not have a dictionary (I still haven’t found a bookshop in the vicinity) I logged on to the net and translated “burn” – Brulure – and jotted it on a sticky-note before leaving for the pharmacy. The girl behind the counter understood English, but I showed her what I had written and she nodded in confirmation.
As I was writing the above lines I wondered if there were some online French lessons I could take to pick up a few more phrases, and I ran into this nice BBC site that offers simple tutorials for spoken French. I have a week more to spend in Lausanne, and its time I did something about the current state of my French. Au revoir!