Last weekend, I went to the qepHom in Saarbrücken.
I wanted to participate in the Klingon Language proficiency test, so I had spent quite a while practising vocabulary with tereS's KLIFLASH program. (I must say, though, that it was not always very useful; its idea of what were basic words didn't always jibe with the words required for KLCP level 1.) I felt I had understood most of the grammar (except for a lot of verb prefixes), and so the hardest bit now was memorising vocabulary.
I had also made a list of the 500 vocabulary words required for KLCP Level 1, had repeated them ten times and shuffled them, then printed out the result, and I used this list to practise on the train. (While doing so, I noticed a fair number I was sure I hadn't come across in KLIFLASH yet, e.g. mob "to be alone", which I tried to learn.)
I was the first to get to the youth hostel—barely. I had just checked in and got my key when Lieven came in together with Shani and nI'taQ. I stood at the side of the reception desk and waited while they checked in and received the keys for all of the rooms, except for the one I was sleeping in, which I had. (There was only one key per room, which was sometimes a little irritating since you had to find out where it was or who had it at that moment if you wanted to go up to your room to fetch something during the day.)
Lieven had printed out sheets of paper containing the name of animals, and he affixed those to the rooms in which the participants were staying. My room (number 6) was mIl'oD "sabre bear".
While he was doing so, Katrin and he, as well as Agnieszka (who had arrived in the meantime) talked together in Klingon. At this point, something went "click" inside my head, and I went "Wow! This is real. This is a language people can communicate in. And they can even do it in real time, when speaking, without a dictionary in hand or the leisure of being able to revise a sentence after you have typed it."
I didn't understand much of what they said, but it was pretty impressive. Come to think of it, those three (Lieven/Quvar, Katrin/nI'taQ, and Agnieszka/'ISqu') were also the three who had the best command of the Klingon language of those in attendance, I believe.
As time went by, more and more people showed up, including Regina/Senara. She's blind, so someone picked her up from the train station. Her Klingon was also pretty good; she had a pretty good vocabulary and a wide range of grammar as well as a good pronunciation. As I understood her, this was her first chance to be able to speak Klingon out loud to people, though she had used the language on the German qepHom mailing list already. It was certainly her first qep (meeting). B'Elora also seemed to know a fair bit, but I didn't catch her speaking Klingon much during the course of the weekend; that was pretty much limited to Senara, nI'taQ, 'ISqu', Quvar, and myself.
My vocabulary studies had paid off; I found that when 'ISqu' (with whom I probably spoke more Klingon than with anyone else) spoke to me, I could usually understand her, especially if she translated the odd word.
Languages were also interesting. Most of the time, I spoke English with nI'taQ, probably because we had first started speaking when 'ISqu' was around, who spoke very little German (she's from Poland), and so we spoke English. And later, nI'taQ spoke English to me even though we both speak German; perhaps because it's easier to code-switch between two languages than between three.
I'm rather grateful to 'ISqu' and nI'taQ for speaking so much to me and for making me feel at home, since I tend to be a bit shy around people I don't know, especially when they already know one another. But this way, I had someone to sit next to right from the start, and be able to practise Klingon as well.
Vera (T'Ntal?) also initially spoke English to me because she wasn't sure whether I'd understand her Swabian-accented German (she said that a lot of people above a line roughly dividing Hessian and Swabian had difficulty understanding her), but I understood her nearly all the time, so I was fine on that count.
The first evening, Lieven suggested that those who wish to learn Klingon sit down near the front of the room, probably because he knew from experience that those near the back of the room would often "tune out" the lesson and instead socialise, drink homemade bloodwine, compose music, or do other things.
The room was an "aquarium"—three of the sides were covered with windows, which was kind of nice.
A fair number of people had Klingon costumes, which they tended to wear especially in the afternoon and evening. Many were hard to recognise once they had changed. (One person told me they tended to avoid the name "Verkleidung" (disguise) or "Kostüm" (costume) since that sounds too much like carneval, instead using "Kutte", which is the name for a monk's robe.)
I'm not sure whether I actually *learned* so many new things, but it was certainly a wonderful opportunity to practise using the language and to meet people who were speaking it.
The first evening was a basic introduction to the language, its spelling, pronunciation, and basic grammar.
On the second day, we talked about numbers, how to express the arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and body parts. For this last, Lieven had drawn a picture of a body and we took turns labelling the various parts.
Some of the ways in which we practised using the language on the second day included playing hangman (not so easy since most words are only one syllable and three letters long), Twenty Questions, and DIjchu'.
Twenty Questions, for us, involved someone sitting in a chair with their back to the board. Someone would write a word on the board which that person was to be, and the person would have to ask questions to try to find out who or what he was; the audience would answer with "yes" or "no". (I think Lieven said another name for this game was jIH 'Iv "who am I", but that might have been a different game as well.) Many of the people were not enthusiastic about the game and ignored it, even those who understood a fair bit of Klingon, so it ended up being mostly nI'taQ, Senara, 'ISqu', lojmIt pupwI', and I who would take turns guessing and answering. Some of the words picked were fairly difficult; they were as diverse as HoD "captain", veng wa'DIch "First City (capital of Kronos)", nIHwI' "thief", and pong "name".
DIjchu' "paint perfectly" involved someone picking a word and telling it to another person. That person then had to draw that word on the board and the others had to guess that word. Not always easy, especially with words such as luSpet "black hole".
The evening of the second day was also the time were the proficiency test took place. Those who wanted to participate went over to another seminar room where we could have some quiet and where we could spread out a little.
Lieven had two different versions of the test and gave them out alternately, so that no two people sitting near one another had the same questions. For Senara, he had previously opened her test and had typed up the questions and saved them to a floppy disk. She had brought along her laptop computer and worked on the questions that way.
Apparently, at home she uses a Braille output device which she hadn't brought along, so she used speech synthesis (with an earphone in one of her ears, so as not to disturb the rest of us). When most people had finished and it was quiet, I could hear a little of what the computer was saying to her; it appeared to be spelling out things as I thought I caught the names of German letters. On the other hand, that method makes the most sense since the speech synthesiser wouldn't know how to pronounce Klingon words, so spelling out everything may be best.
We had an hour for the test, which I thought was ample time; I was finished after about twenty minutes and felt that I didn't need more time. After all, with most questions, either I knew them or I didn't, so more time wouldn't really help there. The others didn't take longer than about half an hour, either.
There were twenty questions, and you had to get at least sixteen of them correct (80%) in order to pass. There were several varieties of questions, including translation questions (in both directions) and requests to identify verb prefixes (also in both K–E and E–K) versions and to identify the class of verb and noun suffixes.
For the latter question, I'm glad that 'ISqu' had warned me that the test asks you to identify the type of suffixes rather than translating them; I had learned most of them by meaning but wouldn't have been able to identify which number suffix they were. However, after she had told me that, I had the opportunity to practise the numbers during the first evening and the second day.
After I was finished with the test, I asked Lieven whether I could take the Level 2 test as well, just to see what it was like (since I didn't expect I would be able to pass it with the vocabulary I knew). He said that you aren't allowed to take a test until you've passed the earlier test. However, since Lieven was marking the tests himself, I thought I'd wait around and see whether I had passed.
After he had marked my Level 1 test, Lieven called me to the front since there was a tricky situation: there were four questions I had definitely answered wrongly. (In one of them, the answer I had given was even explicitly mentioned in the notes in the answer key as an incorrect answer, both because it included grammar that's not required for Level 1 and because the verb used didn't quite have the correct meaning.)
However, with four questions wrong, I could still have passed, but there was a fifth question which was a bit thorny. The question involved the word "honor", which I had translated quv, but the answer key used batlh instead.
Now, the list of words to learn for Level 1 only includes English translations, for copyright reasons, and so it only says "honor (n)", without specifying whether batlh (which is in the body of the main dictionary) is meant or quv (which is in the addendum). Simply excluding the addendum doesn't work because some of the required words (such as Soj and DaHjaj) come from there. Also, students can't have been expected to know the fine distinction in meaning between quv and batlh because that distinction wasn't made clear until after the publication of TKD, but TKD was to be the only required source. (And in any event, Lieven said that from what he knew, quv was more appropriate in that sentence.)
So he was unsure whether to mark that question correct or not or whether he had to talk this over with Holtej first; I think one reason why he was unsure was that when he first took the Level 1 exam, he just barely failed by one point. But in the end he decided that he would mark it correct, which means I scored 80% on the test.
He took out the Level 2 test, which he also had in two versions, and asked me to pick one of them. I picked one of them at random, but perhaps I was guided by luck.
When I sat down to take it, I found I knew most of the vocabulary (including the verb prefixes used in that test). And after Lieven scored it, he gave me 17/20 - 85%, or even better than I had scored on the Level 1 test. I could hardly believe it.
On Sunday, I decided to leave together with 'ISqu'; she was taking a train along the same route as mine but an hour earlier, to go to Frankfurt airport. One reason that influenced my decision was that nI'taQ was taking her 'ISqu' to the airport, which solved my problem of how to get there (since I had taken the bus on Friday afternoon but they didn't run often on Sundays); another was that I would be able to practise a bit more Klingon with her.
And indeed we spoke a fair bit of Klingon on the train, though also quite a bit of English. She asked me whether I would send a message to the KLI mailing list and I agreed I probably would.
One of the reasons I hadn't sent a message there before was that I didn't want to be a complete newbie, but I now had some vocabulary under my belt; another was that I wanted to choose a Klingon name for myself with, but I didn't want to choose one too rashly since "I may have to live with it for a long time", as the FAQ counsels. But I came to the conclusion that I'm not a Klingon, so I don't need a Klingon name.
(Incidentally, some of the people asked me whether I was a member of Khemorex Klinzhai, one of the biggest Klingon fan groups in Germany, to which most of the attendants belonged. But now that I've looked them up after getting home, I probably won't be able to join them, since at the moment I'm more interested in the language than in the role-playing aspects, so if anything, I'd want to play a human, but they only accept 15% humans and the quota is currently 15.6%, according to the FAQ. This implied they wouldn't accept my application unless I decide to be a Klingon, which is unlikely to happen soon. Also, I'm not sure I have enough free time for that sort of hobby.)
In summary, I think it was worth the time and money to visit the qepHom, not so much for what I learned, but for the social interaction and the ability to hear Klingon spoken "live" and to do some of that myself.
So, here I am now. I've been pretty busy the past couple of days so I haven't been able to make good on my promise to send something to the tlhIngan-Hol mailing list (well, except for a couple of short messages, but I wanted to introduce myself properly). I've taken advantage of a business trip to Wolfsburg to type up this message on the train. Perhaps I'll be able to formulate another message to the tlhIngan-Hol mailing list on the way back.