Friday, January 21, 2011

German Speaking Personal Assessment – 4 Month Check Up

My German is gradually getting (extremely gradually) better, though it has come a long way from the beginning.  I am at the point where I can communicate to people in German enough to get things done on a day to day basis without too much effort (or too much embarrassment).  I no longer lay in bed at 6 am trying to determine what I am going to say at the post office later that morning.

I can’t decide which, but the proper current assessment of my German is either a two year old child or a caveman.  At this point, it’s a combination of both.  I get the feeling that after I walk out of the bike shop after asking to get my bike tire fixed, the store clerk and his wife have a strong feeling that I am a pretty independent disabled person for going there all by myself. 

People have to listen very closely when I am speaking German.  It’s like a two year, where only the parent’s know what he or she is saying and has to interpret to everyone else.  Except for me, there is no one to interpret my Denglish (Deutsch and English combined.)  To make matters worse, I have to sometimes (okay a lot) throw in English words when I get stuck telling a story.  It’s my indirect way of asking if we can bring the conversation to English, if possible. 

Speaking of which, I have only admitted once in the last 4 months that I don’t speak English.  Dana, on the other hand, asks the question right away.  This can be both good and bad.  I don’t like Dana’s approach too much as we are learning the language, living in Germany, and need to have these awkward conversations to get better.  On the other hand, just guessing what people are saying and responding with a yes or a no, is going to get me in a lot of trouble if it hasn’t already.  I think I have already agreed to donate my organs to the gas station attendant when I die and I am 70% sure that I loaned 3 million euros to a guy at the park.  This is the problem with shaking your head and saying yes or no without knowing the question.   

If you would ask Dana, she would say I already acted like a cave man.  Now, I speak like one when I am trying to talk in German.   Because I struggle with the filler/transitional words, I mutter things like, ‘I bring paper now’ or, ‘You have key?’ Add this on top my normal scratching of myself and frequent grunts, and it all makes sense.  Is this why I don’t think the Geico Caveman commercials are funny at all?  I just believed that everyone thought they were stupid.   I, go, now. 

Running errands.  "So easy, even an (American that speaks like a) caveman can do it."

1 comment:

Wera said...

I'm a bit puzzled. You study at a German university. Are the courses you chose generally in English? I never would have guessed, that it is possible to study abroad without speaking the language.

For instance, if I would like to study in the Netherlands, I have to know Dutch in speech and writing, because the main language at the Netherlands university is Dutch. You have to pass a language-test. Isn't it in German, too?

On the other hand I could imagine that the Germans you meet are happy that they can improve their English skills, while you are struggling with German.

PS: I like your blog and the way you both described your life in Germany.