Note: This is part 2 in my trip report of my weekend trip to Berlin to take part in an Esperanto course hosted by Judith Meyer and Chuck Smith. If you have not read part 1 yet, I suggest you go do that here: Trip report: Joining the Esperanto-Club and buying cafés
The last post wrapped up at the end of Thursday, with me going back from my day around Berlin. Not much happened and as I had been using a lot of resources, going to bed early-ish was probably a good idea to save some energy for the next few days.
One thing I forgot to mention from Thursday is that I went to Café Tasso, which you might recall from my Polyglot Berlin trip report, and I actually managed to pick up Esperanto – Deutsch and Deutsch – Esperanto dictionaries. I'm not usually a book dictionary guy, but how could I resist when I was there on an Esperanto course? Apart from the dictionaries I also found 2 easy readers for Russian designed for people with a vocabulary of 1000 words, which I'm probably not too far of from.
I woke up on Friday with the sense that I had not really rested. Probably sleeping in a foreign location combined with walking a half-marathon in Berlin the day before had really tired out my body. Anyway there was no rest for the wicked as another participant in the course had showed up, Konstanze, an Italian girl who seemed to have a great grasp of Esperanto, along with a lot of over languages it seemed.
Judith was busy with her Chinese studies that day, so after breakfast it was me, Chuck and Konstanze setting out for a day of adventure. The first stop was a Turkish Bazar, which was pretty good. If I lived nearby there I would probably get produce from there, but that was about it really. We did manage to find a place to buy falafel for 2 euros, which we both agreed was pretty cheap – even for Berlin!
A Cat Café? Really?
Chuck had asked me before if I would join him and Konstanze to see a cat café. Luckily I had heard about this type of café before, though that was in Japan I believe. I'm pretty neutral when it comes to pets, but I thought, whatever, if they want to see a cat cáfe lets go see it.
We arrive after several different u-bahn lines to the cat café which is a small café located in what appears to be a residential side street to the main road. You are very unlikely to find this place unless you look for it, I thought. As you enter the café there is a two-door system in place, so the cats don't run off. Pretty clever I thought.
What wasn't really clever, and kind of made me question the whole idea, was that there were only two cats associated with the café. And of course cats sleep or run off, or whatever cats do, so we actually only saw one cat for most of our stay. The café itself was very nicely decorated though and we were the only ones there most of the time, so it was also pretty quiet.
I did get to pet a cat a little bit as it was lazily snoozing near a windowsill, but actually calling it a cat café was a bit of a stretch. I think I would describe it as cat-friendly café with humans.
The “Esperanto Club” expands
After the cat cáfe and the Turkish Bazar I was pretty tired, so I went back to the flat and worked on some online projects for a while, before Jeff, the next participant in the course came by. I met Jeff in Berlin at the polyglot gathering and I was looking forward to talking to him again. We all went out to eat at a Chinese place, where Konstanze had invited a personal friend who also happened to speak Esperanto.
With the Esperanto flying everywhere and me sort of stumbling in the making of sentences, heavily aided by Chuck or Judith, I felt definite improvements already. When you hear others speak the language our brains are amazing at deciphering and extrapolating new vocabulary and sentence constructions.
I learned that Jeff had been studying Esperanto many years ago and had a lot of passive knowledge of it, and with Konstanze and this new guy speaking pretty fluently I was starting to wonder if I was the only one who had only learned the bare minimum before coming on the trip. I wasn't worried about it, but it did make me think I should've studied more. Don't you hate that feeling?
We all went home and, with a long weekend ahead of us, decided that getting to bed relatively early was probably the best idea.
Buying a Café – a breakthrough in my language learning
The day of the course had finally arrived and I woke up even less rested than the day before. I don't know why. I can hardly blame jet lag coming from the same time zone.
I had thrown myself more and more into actually speaking Esperanto and as we were walking to meet the other course participants, I had to get some coffee so I asked: Ĉu mi havas tempon aĉeti kafejon? As Judith casually responded somewhere about not having time to buy a café, I realised my mistake.
Esperanto vocabulary is a mix of European languages and sometimes it's a little difficult to remember just which. For instance Café would be coffee in French, Spanish and German (and probably more.)
The Esperanto for coffee is kafo. But my mistake was so funny, and probably aided by lack of sleep, that everyone just found it hilarious, myself included. Now you might think I got embarassed and kept quiet for the rest of the trip. No, that couldn't be further from the truth.
This little slip up made me realise, that if the worst you can do when you make a mistake in your new foreign language is to make everyone around you happier through laughter, then what are you scared of? Since this little incident I started to speak more Esperanto and not relying on English as I have in the past.
I noticed this immediately when I came home and had a Russian lesson, I was less ‘scared' of just trying to speak.
In the next and final part of the trip report I will talk about the course itself, as well as my thoughts on Esperanto and going forward with the language.
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.