I know there are a few Germans on this board, help me out please!
I have been at least somewhat interested in learning some German for a long time. I would say that out of all the languages that I don't speak, it's the one that I don't speak the best. ie. no, I really do not speak or understand it, but I know a number of words and phrases and understand a little if I look at a page of writing. I think this is partly because my brother studied it - only for a year at uni, but he was really quite good and still uses it somewhat as it's sometimes useful in his work. He used to go around muttering strange phrases.
My interest in learning German is kind of reviving of late and I am seriously thinking of taking some classes or doing some self-study, or both. Typically for me, literary obsessions seem to be unleashing this desire. (I eventually moved to London, where I now live, in large part because of an obsession which really got going when I was crazy about Sherlock Holmes in my teens). I've lately been reading the poetry of Paul Celan a good deal - although I started reading him years ago, I've only been seriously reading a lot of his poetry since last year. I've also started reading Rilke. In both cases, these are in English translation with facing German originals, and because I love poetry and love language, this helps me to get a bit more of the sense and sound of the originals. I also re-read The Neverending Story lately, fantastic...
Anyway, if I did learn some German it would probably be a good while before it was much use for reading poetry...! But the upshot is that I find myself quite keen. Even to the point that I wonder if I may want to try living in Germany at some point. I've thought about it before. I've visited Germany several times now - Nuremberg (when very young), Munich, Frankfurt and around, Berlin, Cologne, Wiesbaden. It seems like every time I go I have a wonderful time and a very different experience. I've had a few German friends and got along very well with them. If I ever moved there I would probably be most interested in Berlin or Munich, based on my experiences so far. (I have an EU passport, so that part of it isn't a problem.)
So...Germans or anyone who's lived there or learned German, a few questions:
-Are there any good books or language courses you recommend for a beginner? What about the Goethe Institute - there's one in London! (I speak French and some Spanish, and a tiny bit of Finnish, so I have some experience learning languages.) I do have a German friend who does some teaching already, so that seems like a good prospect. I mentioned my interest to her and she's crazy busy at the moment with work, studies etc but might give me some lessons later in the year.
-What would you say about living in Germany, especially for an English speaker who would probably have only limited German if/when she moved? Job opportunities? I'm pretty sure there is a lot of unemployment. Cities you'd recommend and why? Cost of living? etc. In terms of where I've lived so far in my life, I grew up in Canada, lived in Ireland for three years and now London for almost six. I also spent a lot of time in Finland as a child as my mom is from there.
-Insights into German culture and character? Recommendations for foreigners? I'm half Finnish, and I think in some ways the Nordic countries are similar...
-And...which other poets and writers should I be reading?! (just in translation for now!) I have read some German writers but would be interested in recommendations.
Loads of questions, sorry, but any insights appreciated. This is a bit of a long term project. I am pretty sure I will be in London for at least another two years or so - and it's possible I'll stay permanently, or end up somewhere else. But at the least I think I will try to learn some German!