Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hi, I'm Awkward. Nice to Meet You.

German is really hard to learn. I am horrible at it which creates painfully awkward and embarrassing moments every day. The Rosetta Stone computer program that we have is useful if I want to say "The boy jumps off the table" or "The woman has short, black hair" but it hasn't taught me anything really practical yet. Here are just a few examples:

At the park: I'm pushing Dylan on the swing and a little girl comes and starts talking to me. She is perhaps 3 years old and is obviously asking me a question. I simply stare back at her. She repeats the question. A 3-year-old has never made me feel so stupid. A third time, she asks. I grab Dylan from the swing and say "Okay, Tchuss!" (Bye!) and run away leaving the little girl there with a bewildered look on her face.

In the town center: Someone comes up to me and asks what time it is. I only know that is what they're asking because they used the international sign language gesture by putting their index finger to the top of their wrist. I check my watch; it is 4:30. But how do you say "It's 4:30" in German? I have no idea. My brain says "Quatro y media" which is 4:30 in Spanish. Urggggg! I give up and say (in English): "4:30" then quickly walk away.

At the store: I had purchased a belt at a local store and realized after coming home that is was too big. So the next day I went back to return it for a smaller size. At the counter I handed over the big belt and receipt and said "Ist sehr grosse" (It's very big), then held up the smaller belt ... and then I did something odd. I pointed my two index fingers at each other and moved them back and forth as if the gesture would clearly say "I would like to exchange the big one for the smaller one. Here is my receipt." But instead of speaking actual words, I made a sound effect like "re-er-re-er" because making the sound of a squeaky bed would better articulate the fact that I wanted to exchange the belts. Somehow communication happened that the store clerk made the exchange.

On the phone: It's bad enough to know that when I leave the house I will be forced into an awkward language-barrier situation, but now the awkwardness has invaded my home by calling me on the telephone. Someone called here the other day asking for me, so Bryan handed the phone over. I expected it to be one of my new friends who speaks English, but it wasn't. Whoever it was just started speaking to me in German and I completely froze. I uttered a series of "ja's" and "uh-huh's" until the person was satisfied and hung up. Why didn't I say the two sentences that I know how to say in German: "Ich sprechen kine Deutsch" (I can't speak German) and "Sprechen sie English?" (Do you speak English?) Either one would have been sufficient, but instead I kept saying "yes" until they hung up. What did I agree to? Did I order some magazine subscriptions? Maybe we're going to have a foreign exchange student come to stay with us. Or maybe that was the immigration office calling and asking "Are you in the country illegally?" and I replied "jaaaaa..... uh-huh......" (Note: We are here legally, I promise.)

Getting a haircut (this one is Bryan's):  I walked in to the hair salon and was met by the hair stylist who was working near the door. He said in German, “Can I help you?” I replied, “Ein Schneiden bitte” which means “A haircut please.” Not a pretty start, but I was now in line. While waiting, I rehearsed my lines. I had performed a Google search earlier in the week that read: “How many mm’s is a 2 guard?” Miraculously, it gave me what I was looking for. 6.25 mm’s. I needed this for my explanation. It was my turn and settled into the seat. I spoke in my prepared German, “6 millimeters on the side and finger long on the top, please.” I braced for the question that I was likely to not understand, but it didn’t come. The hair stylist only said in German, “Do you speak English?” I said “Ja” and we were on our way. My confidence was building, so I threw in a comment in German about how long my hair was. I really wanted to follow up with a Justin Beiber comment, (because my long hair kind of looked like Justin Beiber’s) but I was working on a perfect interaction and didn’t want to throw the conversation off course (or worse, accidentally get a Justin Beiber haircut). When it was all done, the hair stylist asked me if I wanted hair gel. I said, “No, I will make a hat.” In one fatal sentence, the perfect conversation in German had been ruined. On my way back home, I remembered out of the blue the German word for “wear.” “Tragt!” I said out loud while shaking my head. Next time, I said to myself. Next time.

At least one of us is not totally awkward - Dylan.  Here is a photo montage of Dylan from the past few weeks.
"Catch me if you can...."
"Please let me down, I'm ready to run!"
Like father, like son.
"Outta my way!"
"This outfit would be cool, if it weren't for the red and yellow socks."
"Mom, read me this book RIGHT NOW!"


erika said...

Oh my goodness...I laughed outloud reading every one of these stories- just hilarious!
Love you guys :)

Kristen said...


My name is Kristen and I am writing to you from an American television show about people buying homes abroad. I came across your blog and I thought I would get in touch to tell you a bit about our program and see if you might be interested in being on our show.

House Hunters International tells the story of people who have picked up their lives and moved to foreign and exotic locations to pursue a new life. Being on our show is a lot of fun for our participants and a great way for them to document their exciting search for a home and new life abroad.

We’re currently looking to cast people who have bought or are currently looking for a home abroad. If you fit this qualification or know anyone who does, I would love to tell you more about the project. You can contact me at

I look forward to hearing from you!

Bryan said...

Hi Kristen,

Thank you so much for reaching out to us. We LOVE your show!!

We've sent you a separate email in response to your comment.

Bryan and Dana