Of course when I first came to Germany, I assumed I’d pick up the language fairly fluently within a week or two. The best way to do this would be to immerse myself totally. I resolved to seek out people who don’t know any English and insist on talking with them. In German, of course.
My first victim was the landlady of the small guest house which I booked myself into the morning of my arrival. She fitted the bill perfectly, as she spoke fluent fast German, and shook her head vigorously when I asked if she knew English. I’d been travelling all night, so when she presented me with coffee and a small biscuit, I thought I’d try learning the language through acquiring the vocabulary for ordering breakfast.
Initially of course I had to fall back on hand signals. So I pointed gracefully and slightly coyly to my mouth to hint that I was hungry.
The landlady set off in her eloquent high-speed German and somewhere towards the end of the torrent was something about “Stukken.”
I realised at once that there must be some problem in the kitchen. I only wanted a spot of breakfast… but clearly there was a technical hitch of some sort. I wondered if it was a slice of bread that had got stukken in the toaster. Or maybe the knob on the cooker was stukken, and there was no chance of a boiled egg.
I shook my head sympathetically. I’m no good with appliances myself either.
She then set off with another babble of German, which appeared to be discussing the “spec” of the faulty device in question – almost certainly a toaster – they are so unreliable! She stressed the word “ire” several times, and even “raw ire” so she was clearly quite disgusted about the device’s inability to make my breakfast. In fact she ended up with her face right up close to mine, barking “spec und ire” loudly.
I know exactly how she felt.
Still, this conversation about culinary equipment and its failings wasn’t getting me any closer to a plate of bacon and eggs. So I shook my head vigorously to show that although I sympathised, the conversation was completely off track.
“Toasters are the worst!”I stressed, in case she thought me rude.
The sympathetic approach seemed to do the trick, because almost immediately, she disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a plate of toast and sausage.
I must buy a phrasebook.