Watch your language… and wallet

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The past weeks I have been busy with work and some personal writing. And in the coming ones I will be, like some of you, job-hunting! Do you have some tips for me this time?

Here’s some reading to munch on over the weekend…


Remember when I wrote about learning and including the jargons in the area and sector in your statement of interest, which I termed bureaucratese. The New York Times recently featured a study on how the World Bank’s use of language has evolved, from using precise words to more amorphous language like cooperation and more recently, governance. Here’s an example:

“Countries in the region are emerging as key players on issues of global concern, and the Bank’s role has been to support their efforts by partnering through innovative platforms for an enlightened dialogue and action on the ground, as well as by supporting South–South cooperation.”

Now let me go back to mainstreaming the graduation model into the global development agenda. Moving forward…


On a related note, here’s 10 tricks to appear smart during meetings in your development organization.


One of the reasons people are attracted to working in development is the cushy compensation. Do you really know how much expats earn? My eyes went O_O the first time I heard about out some years back. A local aid worker asks whether this is justified given similar (or at times, better) skill set of the national staff than the international hire. Don’t forget to browse the comments section.


I consider myself mostly lucky when it comes to my career. What role does luck play in landing awesome jobs and getting ahead in life? A big one, apparently. Just something to keep in mind when the going gets tough and that dream job application falls through. And I’m saying this based on personal experience.


I had a good chat via Skype with one reader from Bangalore who’s now interning for a research institute. Among other topics we discussed, he asked me about my day to day tasks in my previous and current work, which I hope to write more about in the future.


Have a good weekend!

Brücke 10

I was supposed to attend a Stammtisch of photo enthusiasts based in Hamburg.  Last night I joined the fotocommunity and thought of rounding up with photographers in the city.  I’ve been looking online for photography clubs and remembered this German website, which I think have expanded to include other countries and languages.  The meeting place was in Bruecke 10, which as I understood is bridge number 10.  And so I waited and waited out in the cold and windy harbor, staring at people who have cameras and I hope would acknowledge their membership to the fotocommunity.  In the end, no one turned up in my Bruecke 10.  It seems Bruecke 10 is actually a restaurant near Bruecke 10.  That’s a misunderstanding that could happen when German nouns are written in capital letters: is it Bridge 10 or bridge 10?

Schooling in the Volkshochschule

As if the thesis wasn’t enough to make me busy for the next few months, I enrolled in an intensive German course at the Volkshochschule or VHS.  Yes, it’s possible to pronounce that word and it’s only made up of three syllables.  Volks stands for ‘people’ (think of the popular German car brand), and hochschule is a compound word literally translating to ‘highschool’.  However, hochschule here refers more to a higher academic level, but no higher than university education.  It’s more like the German counterpart of adult education.

I’ve been contemplating for a while to take another German course.  But the pending thesis, variety of choices, and financial considerations were looming limitations to my pursuit of German fluency (do I hear that’s an oxymoron?).  The last German course I took was more than a year ago during my second semester.  I didn’t enrol in any further German course as my own Master’s programme started to sound like German.  The thought of reading Goethe and Nietzsche remained just that, thoughts.  Sooner or later, though, I wll be able to do it- maybe not get into Heidegger, but further learn German again, that is.

Many language institutes offer summer and autumn language courses between August and September.  I took them during my first two months here in Freiburg at the university’s language institute.  Having taken both the intensive and slow-paced semester courses, I could say the intensive course is way much better.  Like most better things though, they come at a higher price.   That’s where the Volkshochschule comes in.

The Volkshochschule charges about half the price for about the same quality of teaching.  They also offer more than language courses.  If you’re a future van Gogh in the making, you can enroll in a painting class.  Or if you are diet-conscious, take up one of their nutrition courses.  There’s sewing if you want to do a Project Runway.  The Volkshochschule is not strictly open to adults.  Young people alike can learn languages and other skills tailored for them.

One day already passed after the German course started when I signed up.  I saw their schedule on-line the day it started, and after a few minutes of mental tug-o-war whether to take the German course or not, I decided to give it a go.  I called their office but they were apparently done with work for the day.  I planned to be the first client the next day.  Someone beat me to opening the VHS-Freiburg but there wasn’t really a long queue to speak of.  I enrolled right away.  They also offered me a 10% discount for my being a student.  A few minutes later and before the class started, I found myself sitting beside a Korean planning to do his PhD on automotive technology.  The Polish girl across the room is doing her au pair exchange with a German family.   A few have been in Germany for a while and would like to improve their German proficiency.  We come from different countries and are studying German for different reasons.  At least we share a common denominator, which is to further learn another language that could widen our horizons and aspire to get to know another culture.  Also, sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Think negative!

Here’s a quick lesson on one of the nuances- or should I say, precision- of the German language. The word nicht, meaning “not,” with its literal negative connotation, plays a crucial role in the German language. Like its other variation, kein/keine/keins, and permutation in other languages, can negate one word, part of, or the entire sentence itself. This linguistic maneuver I learned the easier and artificial way in my German class last week. I will use the direct English translation which sounds a bit funny. Let the kissing begin…

Nicht ich kuesse dich heute. Not I kiss you today. (But someone else will…)

Ich kuesse nicht dich heute.
I kiss not you today. (I will kiss someone else, sorry)

Ich kuesse dich nicht heute. I kiss you not today. (But definitely some other time… Patience is a virtue)

Ich kuesse dich heute nicht. I kiss you today not. (Tell me, when then?)

This might be irrelevant to Spanish, Italians, French, and Latinos, who just kiss, not only once but at least twice or even thrice. With Germans, though, one should be careful of the use of these sample sentences.

Those who have learned the language may tell me that I should simply forget the negativity. Learning German is easy. Now… das weiss ich nicht! (that I do not know!)