Friday, July 1, 2011

German Language Update

So, we've been here for 10 months now and our German is progressing ... slowly. Very, very slowly. We really underestimated how difficult this language is to learn and thought that surely after 10 months we would be able to speak and comprehend much better than what we're currently able to do.  Even though I had the advantage of taking a beginner German course, Bryan is leaps and bounds ahead of me with being able to speak. Now my course is over, I have completely plateaued with my progress.  Here are some common situations that I get myself in:

Going out with Dylan: Dylan is a chatterbox and he says "Hallo" and "Morgen" and "Guten Tag" to just about everyone we see on the sidewalk.  He also will say "Bless You" if he hears someone sneeze (even Oscar) and has been known to go up to strangers carrying recognizable bags from the bakery and holding his hand out for a piece.  He's so cute that even the most dour German passerby brightens up and talks to him. This usually leads to them talking to me, and I can get through about 2 questions (What's his name? How old is he?) before I just smile, nod, laugh if they are laughing at whatever they said and slowly walk away.

Walking Oscar: Like Dylan, Oscar has a "freundliches Gesicht" (friendly face), and I get stopped on the street several times a week by people asking me what kind of dog he is.  For Americans, stopping a stranger to ask a question isn't that unusual, but for German's this is out of the ordinary and in general, people here don't acknowledge others passing by unless they know them personally.  One person even passed us in their car, turned around and pulled into a gas station, got out and flagged us down on the sidewalk just to ask about Oscar. The problem I run into with this is that even though I can easily see that they're going to ask about Oscar, the framing of the question is less predicable than the questions I get about Dylan.  Sometimes they start with "Is he a boy or a girl?" Which shouldn't be too hard, but boy (Junge) and girl (Mädchen) for people is different than a boy dog (Männchen) and girl dog (Weibchen). Do you see how girl/person and boy/dog are almost exactly the same? This is super confusing when you don't catch the subtleties of German pronunciation. (Side note about that: words that should be such an easy translation are hard because of the pronunciation. Example: I asked someone what "fan" was in German and they said what sounded like "fenty lahtour" which I thought was ridiculous in comparison to such an easy word like fan. Then I saw the German word in writing - ventilator. Also an English word.  Duh!)

Back to Oscar, I don't get through many rounds of questioning before my true identity as a non-native German speaker is revealed.  It usually happens when I say "Er ist ein Golden Retriever mit Poodle" and  Golden Retriever and Poodle are said with a completely American accent. Conversation ender.

Giving Directions: If you are lost and you need to ask for directions, what kind of person do you target to approach?  Someone who looks friendly and like they live in the area, right? Well, the lady walking a chatty kid and friendly dog are very likely targets for direction seekers, so I also get frequently stopped with this type of question.  If the destination is too difficult, like a doctor's office on a specific street (I still don't know any street names here, just landmarks), I shrug my shoulders and say "Ich weiss nicht" (I don't know).  Usually when I attempt to help give someone directions, it backfires.  A few days ago I very confidently told someone that the bank was on the "links" (left) while I emphatically pointed to the right.   

Dylan loves pushing Elmo in the cart!

This is his "sad" face. Drama students - take note.

At the park on a really cool pulley/trolley thing.

Cowboy hat and gym shorts constitute a complete outfit in our house.

With Mommy in Winerswijk

Dylan calls this the "Bunny Auto" for obvious reasons.


Wera said...

Don't feel desperate about your German skills. You wrote that you are living in Germany since 8 month. That's not a long time to speak a language fluently. As an original and native German I can say, there are many native Germans out there who are not able to speak a correct German sentence. Sadly, we are no longer the country of poets and thinkers.

As you can see and read, my English writing skills are not as good as I would like. But I try it ...

By the way, I found your blog on . I love to read about the adventures and experiences strange people have from abroad in our country.

I live in Duisburg, that's between Essen and Düsseldorf. If you are traveling by train to visit Düsseldorf or Köln, the train have to stop in Duisburg.

If you are searching for a nice weekend trip search in Google for "Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord". This place is an old industry area. You can experience a time leap to the past of German/Ruhrgebiet culture.

There are many others possibilities for the whole family including your dog at the "Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord".

If you want to visit this industry area or the city of Duisburg and need a guide, keep me posted ;)

Bryan said...

HI Wera! Thanks for the encouragement with our German! It is a really hard language to learn. We'll let you know if we plan a day-trip to Duisburg or to the Landshaftspark. Thanks!

Wera said...

Fine, contact me if you want: