21 December 2001
I had my last classes of the year yesterday. We have two weeks off now and classes then continue until the middle of February. In the week after classes end, I think I'll either be going with other computational linguistics people to a cabin in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest in English?) for a week or going to Berlin. There are a lot of people who want to go on the comp. ling. trip, so I'm not sure if there'll be room. I'll find out in January.
My few friends who are still around today are all flying home this weekend, so I'll be completely alone in Heidelberg for the first time. It'll be interesting to see if I can keep myself entertained for the next few days. I'm going to try to get a lot of work done so I don't go crazy at the end of January. I have five or six finals (I haven't counted yet) and I think I'll spend several weeks doing nothing but studying. Since there's less homework, you have to work harder to be sure you're learning and remembering the stuff covered in class and I haven't been doing as much as I should. I also have a research paper to work on, on the acquisition of grammatical gender in German. The word for it is literally "gender acquisition" and when I told my tandem partner, he thought at first that I meant people-gender acquisition and not grammatical-gender acquisition. I forget that other people don't live in the wonderful world of linguistics. Gender seems pretty arbitrary in German, but children don't have any trouble learning it, so there should be significant patterns somewhere. Non-native speakers have tons of problems with the genders of all the nouns. I make gender mistakes all the time. Non-native speakers probably don't learn all the patterns or don't learn them completely. To test it out, you can make up words and then ask people to decide what gender they are. Germans' answers are fairly predictable for lots of kinds of words, and I want to compare them to Americans' answers. We'll see. I also have a sentence parser to write and a lot of Polish to learn. I'm sure I'll stay busy. Though if you get bored and get struck by a sudden urge to call me, I wouldn't be at all put out. :) Email me and I can send you my phone number. I could even call you back right away, since the rates from Germany to the US are much lower than the rates in the other direction.
I phoned a friend last night in the US and she could tell that my English was rusty. I kept saying things backwards and having to think to remember words. I said "stagnating" once and couldn't remember if it was right or not. Sigh. I'm already a bit apprehensive about going home, since it'll take a while to readjust. It'll be extremely nice to have entire conversations where I don't have to ask people to repeat themselves or ask them what some word means, though.
(I also found chocolate chips in the store today. They come in teeny boxes, so I hadn't recognized them before. I only bought one box, so maybe I can make 15 or 20 cookies with it.)