Sprecken Sie Deutsch?....(AGAIN)
Wow! It’s been SO long since I have posted, that I don’t know where to begin to get back on track. I don’t know how the truly diligent bloggers stay motivated enough to post regularly! When you skip a week, before you know it it’s been a month……and then with travel, COVID, and the holidays……it’s way more than just a month!
I do have many topics I COULD have talked about, but since that list is a bit overwhelming, I’m going to start with a conversation I just had with a new friend yesterday.She happens to be a German, who speaks excellent English. After learning that this is the second time I’ve lived in Germany for more than four years, she asked whether or not I can speak Deutsch. Feeling rather ashamed, I replied “no, or very little”. While I don’t have a legitimate excuse for not at least learning conversational Deutsch, the truth is that the first time we lived here, I never felt the need.
BTW, I have another post from April, 2020 by this same title......but it's quite a bit different and includes a fun video, as well as some resources for learning Deutsch. https://www.afaschinggreattour.com/post/sprechen-sie-deutsch
We lived in the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) where more than 50,000 Americans reside, and all of the businesses in that area cater to the American population. Their profitability often depends upon their ability to communicate in English. From 2008-2012 I don’t recall EVER having the need to speak Deutsch in a restaurant, or a business of any kind. Many restaurants even offer English versions of their menu, and many of the signs in retail stores are in English.
My husband (who was then on his THIRD tour in Germany) can speak Deutsch fairly well, and definitely can understand all of it. I recall him telling me that even though it wasn’t really necessary in the KMC (often referred to a “little America”), making an attempt to speak the language is a courtesy to our host nation; that it shows we are making an attempt to at least learn the very basics; to be able to count past ten, to be able to ask for a glass of wine or tell them we would like to pay our bill – just to be able to have a very basic conversation would go a long way. By the time we left in 2012, other than being able to say “Excuse Me, Good Morning, Please and Thank You, and to ask if they speak English” was the extent of my Deutsch.
In 2012 when we moved back to the states, a lot had changed; the Spanish-speaking population had grown to an extent that we were now making it easier for them to never have to learn English. When I called for a doctor appointment, I was now instructed to press1 for English. Most airports, train and bus stations included signage in English AND Spanish; I was a little freaked out by how easy we had made it for newcomers from Spanish-speaking countries to never adapt to our customs and/or language. Then I began understanding why I should have found all the reasons to learn Deutsch as opposed to all the reasons why it really wasn’t necessary. Fortunately for Germans, regardless of how many Americans live in their community, I doubt they are ever asked to press 1 to communicate in Deutsch. Instead, most of us just ask “Sprechen Sie English?” Because most of them have learned English as a second language, they will accommodate or inadequacies as it relates to their native language. (There’s actually another reason many are way more familiar with English than we are with Deutsch, but I’ll discuss that in my next post😊
Their knowledge of the English language has a lot to do with how willing they are to accommodate us; Can you imagine Spanish-speaking residents entering the majority of businesses in the U.S. and asking “Do you speak Spanish?” Hence the reason for pressing 2 for Spanish!
After seven years in the U.S., we returned to Germany in 2019. However, this time we moved to Bavaria instead of the KMC. There aren’t nearly as many Americans there and Bavarian merchants are a lot less likely to accommodate us😊 Although you may discover many DO speak English, when you ask if they do, you’re way more likely to hear “Nein” (No!). I totally get it; they feel that if we want to do business with them we should learn their language as opposed to the other way around.
As a result, I worked harder to speak enough Deutsch to communicate my needs, albeit, not nearly as much as I should be able to speak by now. When I learn a new phrase, my husband says I use it like a kindergarten kid who just learned how to use a new phrase in English! I recently learned “Schönes Wochenende“ (Have a great weekend) which I, without fail, say to everyone on Friday:) The same was true of “ Frohe Weihnachten” (Merry Christmas) during the holidays. I can ask for the bill, order sweet white wine, ask for a knife, fork or spoon, request a menu, ask where the restrooms are, ask for their cell number, and a bit more but I still can’t count past 3. Shame on me!!! I’m definitely going to work on that during 2023…..I promise!!
Now, we have moved from Bavaria back to the KMC, where Deutsch is required far less, but I don’t want to lose what I’ve learned, and like I said, I now understand that it’s a courtesy to our host nation, regardless of their ability and willingness to speak English.
BTW, most Americans would be amazed at how much Deutsch they can interpret even without being able to speak the language. Almost all of the medical fields are phonetically similar to the English version (Radiologie, Mammographie, Anästhesiologie, Urologie, Pathologie….you get the idea. And (for example) stop is Stoppen, soup is Suppe, so there’s a lot that’s easy to understand when you see it in writing, but being able to use it conversationally is a different ball game. Many people think the English language is difficult to learn, but Deutsch has three genders for nouns and with the exception of a few rules, the choice is absolutely random!
Here’s a really interesting article relative to 5 reasons why learning German is really difficult, and 5 reasons why it’s not: https://en.berlinoschule.com/5-reasons-why-learning-german-is-really-difficult-and-5-reasons-why-its-not/
For Germans who never learned to pronounce “W” like Americans do, this is no big deal at all. But for Americans, it takes a while to get used to pronouncing W like a V. And yes, they also pronounce V like a V! So wine is pronounced VINE and the community of Vogelweh is pronounced VO-GEL-VAY. And it can be confusing to Americans the many ways the word BITTE (pronounced BIT-TA) is used. It is most often used to say Please, but check this out……
Courtesy of ThoughtCo.com – visit their site for a more extensive version of the MANY ways “Bitte” is used in the Deutsch language.
If, like me, you are committed to learn some conversational Deutsch this year, there are way too many websites and smart phone apps to list links, and since I don’t have one (yet) that I can endorse or even say is among the top five resources, please just do an Internet search to find one you like.
While the many phone apps providing awesome translation are the next best thing to learning the language, they are no substitute!!