I’ve finally realised the problem with my German. I’ve been spending far too much time focussing on making it sound…well….German. I guess what I need to do is take some proper lessons.
Tag Archives: language
OK – up to now I’ve only blogged here in English. But actually German is a pretty easy language to pick up – at least it is the way I speak it!
So let me tell you about my day yesterday in German:
Ich wontten schoppen gehen. Ist regenning, zo ich mit mein auto schoppen gehen. Dammundblast die flippenflappen windskrinnwipper kapputten.
Zo ich zu gefukkenautoficksershoppen. Ich saggen: “Die blüddifuckenflippenflappen windskrinnwipper kapputten. Du ficksen bitte.”
Der gefukkenautofickser saggen: “Neue flippenflappen windskrinnwipper kosten lotsenlotseneuros. Hier ist Uppentottenreckning.”
Ich saggen: “Das ist blüddifuckink heiwei Robbering.” Ich given flippenflappen windskrinnwipper backken getten auto en püttenfuttdownen buggeroffheim.
We’re all told that German is a difficult language to learn. Its grammar is grisly, its pronunciation prickly and its cases catastrophic.
Well now I can reveal…exclusively to readers of this blog… that there is an easier way to learn German. It’s effective and quick. Throw away those grammar books and try this method….
I think this video could be a metaphor for a phone conversation I had yesterday. It was one of those situations where I understood every single word… but nothing in the sentences made any sense.
Anyone else ever have those days?
If Germans don’t learn English…. one day it’ll come back to bite them. (Okay – the first example comes from Holland… but it still applies).
…and , why you should never let your children learn German…
Most of my neighbours are enjoying the warmer weather and spring flowers that are starting to come out in the gardens. But not me.
Springtime heralds the start of the annual warmer weather which makes me sweat. Not because of the heat, you understand. Because of my sheer terror when it comes to discussing the temperature with Germans.
My problem is that I cannot for the life of me pronounce the difference between the German words schwul and schwül. I know one of them means warm muggy weather and the other one means gay. But mid conversation…I’m damned if I can ever remember which is which. And I always end up saying the wrong one.
In my panic as I search for the right word, I’m prone to make another obvious faux pas. Will I remember to say “Mir ist heiß” or will I blurt out “Ich bin heiß” by accident? The former means that I’m feeling the heat, the latter that I’m on heat and I’ll start humping your leg if you don’t sit up and take notice.
Not something I actually want to say to the bloke next door.
Of course I’m relieved to find out that the Germans have their own misunderstandings among themselves. Not the same ones as me. But the German regional accents lead to unusual pronunciations and inevitably the sort of gaffes which I assumed until recently only I was capable of.
Take this clip for example, showing how a simple Ossi word is so easily misunderstood by the Wessi craftsman.
On my first full day in Germany I was unfortunate enough to go down with a cold. This meant my first task was to go and buy a packet of tissues.
After the breakfast experience, I thought it wise to arm myself with the correct vocabulary, so from the depths of my luggage I retrieved my German-English pocket dictionary and set about finding the right word.
Under “tissue” the dictionary offered me a range of options. Bespannpapier, Gewebe, Taschentuch and Tempo.
This made me feel rather like a contestant on “Who wants to be a millionnaire” who has to choose between four equally implausible options, without being able to phone a friend or ask the audience. To be honest, none of them looked remotely likely.
I quickly eliminated the last one, Tempo, as being something more to do with time or pace. I couldn’t see how that could possibly be linked to a paper hankie – unless of course Germans blow their noses at high speed.
Bespannpapier looked more plausible. Looking it up from the German to English though, I found out that bespannen means to string… as in to string a violin or other instrument. Surely they couldn’t be referring to strings of mucous emerging from the Teutonic nasal passages? Catching a cold in Germany might turn out to be a more serious and revolting matter than I’d hoped. No, I decided to eliminate Bespannpapier on the grounds of good taste.
Gewebe and Taschentuch remained. But which was it to be?
Again checking back in the dictionary, Gewebe appeared to have the meaning canvas or webbing. Taschentuch appeared to be made of two different words: Tasche, meaning bag or briefcase and Tuch meaning cloth. Looking at my own stitched canvas bag, I tried to imagine blowing my nose on the rough woven fabric, and decided that German noses must be far more sturdy than my sensitive English one.
Uncertain which one to take, I then noticed that right at the bottom of the page there was another option. This one was a compound word and it said “siehe unten.” Looking this up, I discovered that the literal meaning of this curious name was “look below.” This made sense. In olden times a handkerchief was a “kerchief” for the hand and would originally have been worn around the neck. The wearer would only have to “look below” and he would see it immediately. Of course it made sense that he would call it a “siehe unten.”
Armed with this knowledge I set off to the small corner shop a few doors down from my hotel.
The lady in the shop greeted me with a cheery “Bitte schön.”
“Siehe unten, bitte.” I smiled back.
This didn’t have the effect I’d hoped for. The lady seemed hesitant, even a little perplexed. She looked at her shoes, and then back at me.
“Bitte?” Was her response.
I reached for the dictionary again. Maybe I needed to clarify that it was a packet of tissues I needed, rather than trying to buy them singly.
“Ein Paket oder Päckchen oder Schweinegeld siehe unten,” I said firmly. There wasn’t time to go through all the options for “packet” and work out the best. She’d just have to pick her favourite. “Und Bespannpapier, Gewebe, Taschentuch und Tempo auch.” I added for emphasis, as she was standing with her mouth slightly open and appeared to have stopped breathing.
There. She’d got the lot now – surely she could work out something from that lot, even if it meant I’d be blowing my nose on canvas hold-all material – stringy mucous and all – for the rest of the week.
My pronouncement certainly had an effect on the shop-lady. After about ten seconds of silence, she began to shake, and then after a few seconds she erupted into peals of laughter. Her knees seemed to buckle. She had to support herself on the counter, tears spurted from her eyes and finally she collapsed onto the small wooden chair in the corner.
To add insult to injury, she pulled out a packet of tissues from her own skirt pocket and began to mop her eyes while continuing to laugh uncontrollably.
“Das! Das ist ein siehe unten!” I shouted excitedly, pointing at her tissue. But this only made her laugh all the more.
In the end there was nothing for it but to leave the shop and walk on to a self service supermarket further down the street, where I quickly managed to located packets of tissues on the shelves.
On the way back, I tossed my dictionary into the nearest litter bin. It clearly contained only the wrong words anyway.
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.