Which year did you learn that?

Welcome back and thanks again to everyone who has given feedback with the thumb marker or by posting a comment.

Today’s topic, now that I am back in Germany is more along the lines of ‘what year did I learn that – word?’.   This week I am having to attend to some business.  As is so often the case with the German language there are times when I am so glad that I have finally come to know what more of it means and other times when I realize that I still have no idea what the person means by telling me what s/he is telling me in the German language.  I have grown accustomed to a lifestyle in which these types of experiences are commonplace. 

Just yesterday I went someplace.  I know, that was really vague.

Yesterday I went to something actually called a Zulassungstelle.  If you’re German, you already know what that means and this is not all that interesting.  If you are a native speaker of English who does not speak German you can easily imagine a children’s or adult game in which people take wild guesses at what a word might mean.  What does it sound like? 

In truth, the way they say it in 21st century Lower Saxony, is inherently puzzling.  The ‘z’ doesn’t sound like a ‘z’ but actually more like a ‘tszu’ put together.  OK, this really sounds like gibberish:  Tzsu-lass-ung-shtell-ah.  Once the meaning is unlocked the experience is transformed.  It is the vehicle registration office at the county offices.  That’s all it is.  Obviously, for Germans who did not already know English that a Zulassungstelle (seeming normal!) is actually called ‘Ahh-toe re-gi-stra-shunn’ would actually also be very weird.  Once people get used to it, it loses a lot of that initial shock value and after a while becomes normal.  Last year, when I was 44 I still had no idea what that meant.  This week I had to go there and was thrilled that I was no longer staggered by that alone but then I realized that the woman helping me really said ‘dafuer’ more than once in ways that I was still not understanding clearly and I had that ‘color me foreign and still learning the language’ feeling.