Some time ago I began my descent into language. Over a year ago I saw an episode of Electric Playground in which the game Painkiller was reviewed. I was immediately hooked by the image of the Necrogiant and set out to play this fascinating game.
Soon, I had gotten a copy of the game and played it through. My system is not up to snuff so I had to play it with lower settings and slower than ideal but I got a pretty good feel for the game and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also played the Battle Out of Hell expansion and intend to play the sequel, due soon.
While I was playing, I sought help to get me through it faster, and especially in tricky parts. I found the Dreamcatcher forums where fans of the game would congregate to discuss it. I never registered because I patently refused to create yet another account for a forum for a mere game, a forum that as soon as I was done playing, would no longer frequent. And so I lurked. Such is the name given to people on the Internet who hang around a forum and view messages but never themselves post. In fact it got to the point that I felt that I knew most of the people there quite well, but quickly reminded myself that they don’t even know I exist since I have never posted even one message. Nevertheless, I felt familiar with several of the frequent posters and liked them, especially the ones who like myself enjoy cracking things open and looking inside.
There was one person in particular that I felt closest to. One man who goes by the handle Varus77 created an entire website where he posts in-game videos to demonstrate where and how to get secrets in the game, how to accomplish tricky maneuvers, and to point out interesting parts. The thing that most caught my attention—besides the quality of his videos—was that he was German. I have known many people on the Internet from all over the world, but I was particularly impressed by this one. Moreover, while he communicated in English very well and often, he did not refrain from using Deutsch by any means, and his website is bilingual. Not only did his website contain Deutsch, but his videos did as well, with some really interesting German music.
This is where my life began to change. I found his videos to be very good, but the music he added to them was especially well done. I posted to his guestbook to compliment him on his videos and to inquired about some of the songs. To my surprise, he emailed me personally and told me the artists and titles he used. He had used some great songs from the following groups: E Nomine (a German Christian-synth-rock group), Die Ärzte (a German punk-rock group), Fettes Brot (a German rap group), Nightwish (a Finnish operatic-goth-metal band), and Scala (a multi-lingual vocal cover choir). I got music from all of these groups and before long I was hooked.
It did not end there however. In my quest to obtain music from these groups, I ended up getting great music from others as well. While trying to get an E Nomine song, I mistakenly stumbled upon a couple of songs from the German pop singer Blümchen. While looking for Nightwish songs, I got a mislabeled song by Twilightning. And that cover choir Scala, well they had several great songs and I just had to see what the originals were like which led to Wolfsheim (German synth-pop band), mickey 3d (French rock group), Damien Saez (French rock singer), and Noir Désir (French folk band). I also checked out some others that I had known about like Rammstein (a German death-metal band) and became more attuned to notice new foreign music such as MC Solaar’s French rap from the series finale of Sex and the City, Yves Montand’s French folk song from an episode of South Park, and several French, Spanish, and Italian songs by Karl Zéro in an episode of X-Files. I even got a copy of the Japanese theme song to the Sega Saturn commercials featuring the character Segat Sanshiro (that’s such a great jingle!)
Soon after, I was so hooked on foreign music that I pretty much forsook North American music altogether; how could I listen to the regular garbage when European music offered me what I could no longer find here?
Unfortunately—or rather very, very fortunately—I was still not satisfied. Now being fully immersed in foreign music, I felt removed from my North American home. To further compound the situation, I became even closer to other countries in the form of the Internet. There is a well known website The Pirate Bay which provides torrent files which may or may not be used to violate copy-protection. Unlike most other sites of this nature however, TPB has not folded to American corporate pressure and to the contrary derides their efforts to shut them down. When I first saw their page with their insulting responses to the many cease and desist letters they receive, I could not help but enjoy their attitude and wanted to see this Sweden in which they felt so protected. Adding yet more fuel to the fire was my increased viewing of British shows on BBC. Watching the new seasons of Doctor Who and other shows has given me a taste of what life in England is like, which is very different from life in North America.
I now have extreme wanderlust rushing through my veins. I never imagined myself as the type to go “backpacking around Europe” and have in fact despised the very notion of skipping college to do so. Now however I want nothing more than to see all those little countries that hold such a fascination for me. I fully intend to move to Europe in the future for a protracted period of time, but for now there is much work to be done in North America.
I soon found myself longing to understand these wonderful foreign songs. I have always wanted to learn many languages but now had a stronger incentive than ever. I decided to start with German and before I knew what was happening, I had placed holds on a bunch of German learning books from the library and soon was learning a new language. In just a couple of days I had placed holds on Latin learning books as well because I had apparently thought that I could become fluent in German in one week and could then move on to Latin and so on. I accept that I am clearly a little too ambitious, but that is probably a good thing. I cancelled the holds on the latin books and got some more German. To seal the fact that this is not a transient phase, that I am serious, I even bought a great German dictionary from the used book store a couple of days ago.
I am now three weeks into learning German and despite not having made as much progress as I would have liked—which was ridiculous anyway—I am certain that objectively, I have made terrific progress and am on the right track and probably ahead of schedule. I am using both audio and text to learn. I am not only learning the language, but also the culture, and I find it to be absolutely gripping. One problem is to know when I am done learning. When can I consider the learning complete and move on to another language? I decided that this self-taught course I am going through will have as it’s final exam a movie. I will consider myself fluent in German and done with learning when I am able to watch and completely understand the film Das Boot in the original German. Wouldn’t you like a teacher like me? 🙂 I will not watch it until then. I got a copy of the movie this weekend and am really looking forward to watching it.