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REBECCAH DEAN Posts

What I’m Listening To Today

These days Berlin is proving once again that summer is an optional season: gray skies, wind and rain that won’t let up. I hope summer’s back by the time we head to the Baltic Sea at the end of the week. In the meantime, I have to finish the world’s most boring translation. Here’s what I’m listening to while I concentrate on wooden, academic sentences:

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One Story Class Review: Become Your Own Best Editor

Years ago an old boyfriend told me a story about Flaubert and the comma which goes like this: Flaubert was editing the final copy of a story one morning. He had already revised the story many times, re-writing large sections of it. That morning he went through the story again and removed one comma, only one. Later he went for a walk in the garden, had lunch, called on friends but the whole time he was distracted. Should he really have taken out the comma? Just before dinner, he went to his desk and put it back in. The guy…

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Not so different after all…

When I first moved to Berlin, Internet access at home was not a given and cell phones still had buttons and antennas. DVDs were the stuff of early adopters and video cassettes of films not dubbed into German were very hard to find. I took German classes at the Hartknackschule and hung out afterwards on Nollendorfplatz, terrified I might order my coffee wrong at Café Berio. A lot has changed in 17 years. Now you can hang out in Neukölln and only hear English for days. You can get a full-time job at a start-up developing a sandwich delivery app,…

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Living Life in the Present Progressive

I’ve been teaching EFL for many years which has definitely made me a bit of a grammar junkie. There’s something very satisfying about being able to contrast the past simple and the present perfect in your sleep and knowing why a sentence like I will study economics sounds a little stiff and strange. Although I don’t do much actual teaching anymore, I have recently started working as a TEFL trainer. Most of my students are either in their early 20s or early 50s with not too much in between. I find it so endearing how motivated they are, how on fire…

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The Genius of Georg Kreisler

If things had worked out differently, Georg Kreisler might have written the bulk of his satricial songs in English. An Austrian Jew, Kreisler fled Vienna in 1938. He became a US citizen in 1943 and worked on movies with Charlie Chaplin after the war. But he couldn’t find his audience. In 1947, he was rejected by the record labels, his songs  dubbed “un-American.” Listen to this example and you’ll see why his songs might have been a little over the top on the black humor side for a 1940s American audience: In 1955, Kreisler returned to Europe where he spent…

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I Voted (the sticker proves it)

I moved to Berlin the last year of the Clinton administration. When Bush first got elected, I remember sitting in Cafe Rix, opening up a copy of Die Zeit and seeing a cartoon of George W. in a cowboy hat, swinging a Colt revolver. “Well, this can’t be good,” I thought. Little did I know his presidency would soon go from “not good” to very bad to downright terrifying. And I constantly got flack for it. “Hey, people. I didn’t vote for him.” I did still vote, even in the local California elections. I’d order an absentee ballot far in advance and…

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Music And What It Means To Me: Words

When I’m speaking German, sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a sentence and suddenly I’m lost in the fog. Words disappear, adjectives smash into nouns. When this happens, I’m sure my Gegenüber assumes it’s because I’m not a native speaker. Little do they know the same thing sometimes happens to me in English. It’s like my mind is an ocean and words are fish; sometimes they jump eagerly into the nets. Other times they refuse to come to the surface. When I insist, they thrash about, causing me trouble. That why I love music: it never has to go to…

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Big In Japan

When I was twelve, I was sure we had an underground cave inside the hill in our backyard. It was there, full of stalagmites and stalactites and an underground lake if I was lucky. All I had to do was find the entrance. But I wasn’t some pre-teen explorer; if I found the cave, I knew I could charge at least five dollars admission. This was not my first get-rich-quick scheme. When I was a kid in Arizona, I was sure the waxy coating inside palo verde seed pods was pure rubber, which, of course, meant they were extremely valuable.…

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Why I’ve Considered Giving Up My Citizenship (Even Though I Don’t Want To)

  At first, I planned to live in Berlin a year, then head back to the US for graduate school. But a year became two, then three, then four. I stayed, fell in love, fell out of love, fell in love again, got married, started a family. I still remember taking my younger daughter to the US Embassy to get her first passport. Only six weeks old, she was dressed in a cow print onesie, complete with little plush horns on the hood. You can see my husband’s hand holding her up in the passport photo. Although my husband and…

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