I WANT TO BE MY TANDEM PARTNER WHEN I GROW UP!
Tandem- (n) a program wherein native speakers of different languages get together in order to speak those languages and in the process improve their own skills, normally arranged on the internet via school websites.
So in Tuebingen my Tandem was SKETCH-TASTIC! So I didn't have much faith in the program, but after a week or more in Berlin didn't yield too many new friends, especially outside of work, I decided to give it another go. I signed up and was given Az (not real name). We met in person to speak English (we alternate) at a cafe in Kreuzberg (apparently the cool people say "XBerg"...because the X is like a cross/Kreuz...haha) and we hit it off!
Az, a Short Biography of Awesome
26 and born to Iranian dissidents "underground," Az moved to Germany at the age of 7 and since then has spoken largely German, so she has no accent. She studied in Heidelberg and now Berlin, and is writing a PhD dissertation on migrants and the theater. We have a lot to talk about.
She is so interesting and smart, and her English is really out of this world.
FLASH FORWARD TO YESTERDAY:
She sends me a text saying she and some friends are meeting in Prenzlauerberg (near the Kulturbrauerei!) and would I like to join and practice my German. Chance to meet new people AND exercise my newly found cool? YES!
We started off meeting in a busy street and then wandered for what seemed like a very long time, so that we were away from the "Touris" (tourists). The first place we went to, we all sat in a nook arranged like a cave in a wall in a pseudo-asian bar. It was:
Seb- the skinny blonde with a 3 day beard who spoke fluent english and had spent a year in Paris.
Martin- the oldest in the bunch, a medical student of some variety
Sven- the one in the middle, a worker with the German senate who used to play trumpet
and Az- who is great.
They were all in their later 20s to early 30s (seems my target demographic) and all had masters or higher.
we sat around, had some beers, and then went to another couple of places, just killing time, taking advantage of the fact that there's no last call in Germany, and there were only a few of us, so people didn't feel squeemish about picking up rounds (especially when they are 10 Euros) of cheap beers.
Everyone spoke German, but I could understand and mostly keep up with the conversation. This impressed them mightily, and one or two of the guys in a more..errr...anti-intellectual state would try to say something in English. Cute.
They'd all heard of Fulbright, and one of them at one point sat there quietly and said "Ok, vee see, you have been a manger of somezhing, you have a Fulbright, you speak German, and you already have a bachellor degree?" "'ja" and he kind of sat back a bit quietly. I tried to explain that I was manager of a school art studio, most people get Bachelors in 4 years, and yes I am a Fulbright scholar, but my german is nowhere NEAR what I want it to be, but it didn't really sink in. Then he got a little irked/confused. "You speak perfect German, Az speaks perfect English...Why are you needing to practice?!" The answer is that we are both fluent, but there are degrees of fluency, and we aren't where we want to be yet. That's why we can help each other.
For a lot of my friends who did the program, their Tandems have been good buddies, and having met Az, I think not only do I want to be her when I grow up, but I think we'll get along quite well.