Various Kafkas

At the very end of both the first and last of my articles (which in fact is one and the same), I solemnly promised the reader to engage with a few words in two subjects in the next article of mine, that is, for one thing, the courses that I take this year, and the unprecedented beauties of the immemorial city of Edinburgh for another.

After all, this is, one could say, exactly the subject matter that the reader most probably must have expected me to mention in possibly more than merely a few words already in the first testimony of mine concerning the at least questionably exciting experience of my humble existence up to now. Nonetheless, the way in which my endeavour to reach this particular expectance of the reader ended up the first (and last) time is no great secret… The part of the text devoted to my literary moaning about the struggles of a person suffering from, let us boldly (and – it must be recognised – at the same time maybe a bit inaccurately) say, somewhat of a “cultural shock” – or, to be more honest and precise, a definitive and irreversible life change – emitted a bit more words of sorrow, admittedly too hard for the reader to plough through, than I had anticipated it to do. For this most unfortunate reason, I then realised that there was only little or no sense at all in putting a further strain on the reader with any more words, and hence made a decision rather not to become absorbed in another topic. – Let alone one that, if standing just on its own out of the already fairly overwhelming mess, even might have been of an interesting nature. Ergo the postponement of the previously promised presentation of my current subject of study as well as the innumerable charms of Dùn Èideann.

Yet right at this point at the very beginning of my next article, I am able to – with no hesitation – make the following resolution: never again shall I be so dim-witted to sign myself with a promise to write about a certain topic. The obvious reason for such a decision is that there is simply loads of things that happened since November, when I wrote my first article of this kind, and to which it would undisputedly be nice to devote a word or two; alas, this I must not do – as I have promised to do something else instead. So, please, do be so nice, Daniel, cease to drag your excuses out in such a tireless manner, and, for the love of God, get down to what you are actually supposed to be doing now!

Why, as one might have found out when looking at my profile, the full name of the joint degree course of mine reads “German and English Language”. Surely, the reader will not allow the “English” part of this formulation to deceive them, one would not be right if they thought that I first started to learn the marvels of the English language last year in the month of September when I arrived at Edinburgh; if that had been the case, it might have been slightly too late for me to learn the language no sooner than after having arrived at an Anglophone country, mightn’t it? A much better expression would be, say, “English Philology” – for that is exactly what this part of the joint course is about: a thorough study of the English language – of its form as we know it today, of its historical development, of its literature (which is the most extensive of all in the world). This subject is mainly taught via regular delivery of lectures which – as the case for the first year of study is – mostly deal with a proper introduction to the science of linguistics.

On the other hand, the purpose of the subject “German” is precisely the one that I was trying to disprove when I was occupied with the description of the English language course. The goal of the German course is, above all, to reach fluency in the language, and, apart from that, to study and then hopefully as well understand German culture as a whole. Since I have learned the German language for, say, the past couple of years, I somehow managed to do in the classification tests well enough to be enrolled for the most advanced group. (This truly was an opportunity for the experience with the IB German at HL to come in handy – and, indeed, it did. I even daresay that the test that were given was – and I am by no means being arrogant – ridiculously easy.) In the case of this subject, normal lectures are not as vital as when it comes to the previously mentioned course. There is only one German lecture per week, a literature-oriented one – though it is taught in English. (For a month, give or take, we have been talking about Franz Kafka and his Metamorphosis, a book that is commonly read as a part of “compulsory reading” in the Czech Republic by pupils attending literature classes at their secondary schools… So, I am a bit ahead with this one. The trouble is, though, that now I am required to read its German original form – the whole thing! Now, that is a bit tough a proposition. So instead of reading the Metamorphosis, I find myself struggling to get through something called Die Verwandlung… be it whatever it is.) Thanks to its purpose, most of this course consists of a number of individual tutorials, each of them being devoted to a particular area of the language-learning: spoken language (a nice chit-chat), written language (not so nice writing), and grammar (an absolute and complete travesty for the level of knowledge of a Czech student of the German language). – I feel a certain urge to say a tiny bit more about the very last of the listed points: when I say that the grammar tutorials are a travesty, I do mean it – without the slightest shade of exaggeration. You see, there is an immense difference between the way we, Czechs, learn German, and the way in which a person whose mother tongue is English does so. Without any dispute, it is generally harder to learn German than it is to master English; but for the Czech, the language of their western neighbours is easier for them to learn than it is for the British – because, in our mother tongue, the Czech language, there are certain linguistic phenomena that we share with the German language. In contrary to that, take an Englishman or a Scotsman – these poor devils, for instance, first of all need to tackle the very principle of grammatical cases before they can learn how these are formed in German. Admittedly, there are cases in English as well, but they are usually not displayed in a clear way, and when they are, it is mostly shown by the use of prepositions. – That is why it is so hard for the native speakers of English to fully comprehend what on earth these grammatical cases are…

And now, at this point, I should like to make an end to the first part of the promised narrative; the second one is to be concerned with an ode to the splendour of Edinburgh. Nevertheless, in order not to exhaust the faithful reader too much, I will write but the following: in many, seemingly inexhaustible ways, the city is quite charming. An ode that would reflect this fact accordingly shall be sang sometime else, possibly on the occasion of our next gathering… But I am not promising anything – after all, I should not be making an outline for the next article so much in advance!


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