Learning German

Speaking German When You Don’t Speak German

I don’t know much German. I’ve taken like a few German classes here and there and have flirted with various and sundry online teach-yourself-German lessons. These endeavors have given me what I’ve decided is about a two-year-old child’s language level. Probably two-year-old children can understand more than I can, but for the sake of my dignity, let’s pretend I could carry on an intelligent conversation with any average German toddler.

The past few days I’ve gotten to test out my German-speaking skillz, with varied results. Almost every single person I’ve talked to thus far has spoken English, but of course when I went to register at the local You-Are-a-Foreigner-and-We-Want-to-Keep-an-Eye-on-You Office, no one spoke English. Or probably it was just that the lady there thought it was hilarious listening to me butcher her native tongue and didn’t want it to end. Here is our conversation, translated to make your life much easier than mine:

Me: Hello! Do you speak English?
She: No.
Me: Oh. Um… [long pause] I come from America and… I live in Berlin now. I need to… [Wild gesticulations with hands to indicate my need to register as a foreign resident in Berlin.]
She: [Long question in German involving words that sound like “apartment” and “to live in”.]
Me: Uh, I don’t know.
She: [Slower and more emphatic long question in German involving words that sound like “apartment” and “to live in”.]
Me: I don’t understand.
She: [Mimes signing a rental contract.]
Me: [Mimes signing a rental contract, then digs around in purse and pulls out rental contract.]
She: [Looks at contract.] Yes. [Pulls out registration form and gives instructions in German for how to fill it out.]

I think maybe this You-Are-a-Foreigner-and-We-Want-to-Keep-an-Eye-on-You Office lady was having a bad day, or else she just didn’t like the looks of me, because everyone else I’ve bumbled German to has been very kind and helpful. I ordered two currywursts from a street vendor today, and only had to ask what “Darm” is (it’s the skin of the sausage). And tonight I started speaking German to a waiter at a restaurant my mom and I went to. Halfway through, the guy stopped me and said in English, “Is English better?” A few seconds later he started laughing and told me that my attempt at speaking German was “cute.”

The moral of this story is: Always order your currywurst “ohne Darm.” Otherwise you will get it with skin, which is gross.

I know it looks like I'm wearing overalls in this picture, but both looks and perceived language abilities can be deceiving. And no, I don't know the German word for overalls.

I know it looks like I’m wearing overalls in this picture, but both looks and perceived language abilities can be deceiving. And no, I don’t know the German word for overalls.

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One thought on “Speaking German When You Don’t Speak German

  1. Pingback: Yoga is 90% Mental and the Other Half is Physical | The Frogmartian Chronicles

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