Counting to 100

Sometimes you need a time out. Go in a corner and count to 100. Maybe by 53 you'll feel better, maybe you need to go all the way to 100. Or like the instructions on a bottle of shampoo when you're in a lather, you may need to lather, rinse, repeat.

I'm learning to count to one hundred in German-again.  This my second round of lessons. I took a break after my initial 5th lesson and forgot how to count- not that I ever really learned much beyond 10.  Have you ever tried to disassemble something that's been together for years and there is no getting that screw to turn? That's what my brain feels like. I try. I do. Counting is hard when your 45. And of course there is a different method to it in German. My house number is 76. You say it 6 and seventy. Hope I don't have to call 911 ( or whatever it is here).  I don't have a prayer of them coming to the right house.

My German teacher finally stopped my last German lesson to teach me to count. I think she got fed up with my completely blank looks when she told me which page to turn to.   1-10 okay. 1-16 okay. Then there is seventeen, which comes out more sevteen (roughly tranlated- "roughly" because I have no idea what I'm doing really).  The rest of the teens follow a nice pattern. I asked her why the shorthand on 17. She had no idea. Moving on. 20 is also problematic. Honestly,  all I can remember is that it doesn't follow suit. I thought I would remember so I didn't write it down- just nodded mutely.  Guess I should take better notes. 

Can't decide why I need to learn how to count anyway. Because guess what?! The shop keepers all speak Swiss German unless they are pretty young, then they speak English.

I had a different idea for a language lesson. Thought my teacher would be interested. She wasn't.  I thought it would be fun if we did a "living" language lesson. Meet at Starbucks. She could teach me how to order a latte in German. You know, useful stuff.  Let's go for a bus ride. Finally, someone who might be able to correctly pronounce the name of my bus stop. I'm talking life essentials here. Let's go to the grocery store and conquer my irrational fear of the deli. Help me fill out my application for a Swiss license. I know I don't suffer from any of the medical conditions they name in German but in case of a pop-quiz maybe I should know what I don't have.

A friend who was living in Poland found an interesting way to communicate with the butcher there. She doesn't speak Polish. So, in an attempt to order chicken breast, she clucked clucked and grabbed her boob. Hey, she got what she wanted AND made a friend. Later she heard that story made the cocktail circuit. An added bonus.

I went with a another friend to check out her language lesson in Swiss German. That was a lot of fun. Her teacher, Harry, is more of a story teller (there is a good chance he would have known why 'sevteen' and if he didn't know a story about that, he would have told another story).  Swiss German has a really interesting history. It's spoken only- mostly. Kids text in Swiss German. But when people try to write in Swiss German, the spelling is all in how it sounds to you. Good luck with that.
60% of the population of Switzerland speaks German (I think it's really Swiss German). I've heard even neighboring cantons may have difficulty understanding each other.  If that's case, I think there is little hope for me.

Though I haven't read a newspaper in 7 months (on-line doesn't count).  I want to read a newspaper again.  So back to German lessons I go.  The next time I'm freaking out about something, I may be able to count to 100 in two languages.  The silver lining to that cloud is by the time I've counted to 100 in German, I will either be asleep or so muddled I will have forgotten why I originally began counting anyway.

Thanks to Lauren for counting in German for me! Check her out...she'e awesome.


  1. I found being able to count to 10 was good enough to get bread and what not at the bakery. WE had a fish tank while in Germany and every time we went to buy a new fish it was an adventure. There were many times we almost bought the wrong fish which would of meant the demise of other fishes. Patience and the willingness to try to speak goes a long way. You are doing well so be very proud or yourself. Have you thought about having the newspaper from home sent to you in Switzerland ?

  2. Nice blog. I am living in Greece. I retired in the US and am making Greece my new home. I have the same situation here learning their language. I found out learning the Greek alphabet is not worth it, because it doesn't help me to understand Greek. I find myself using a lot of sign language when I shop, but have to be careful because Greeks use a lot of hand jesters and I could find myself giving the wrong impression.

    1. Thanks Carlos!
      Glad you like the blog. Sign language can be dangerous. :-)
      Good luck. Hope you share some more of your own stories. Life as an expat is never dull.


  3. I've lived here for twenty years. Married into a Swiss-German family, living in Swiss-Romandie. Your friend's chicken breast story is one of the best I've ever heard. You brightened my morning, thanks. ;)

    Come visit when you're back if you need a break - we're in Moutier (BE).

    A seasoned expat, Allison


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