Auf Wiedersehen, Pet

by limebirdcaroline

Don’t get me wrong – I can’t speak German to save my life.  I can’t speak any other languages for that matter (bar English, of course).  However, I do understand that people who speak English as a second language, fluent or not, have a put a lot more effort into their linguistic education than I ever did.  I like to think that when a non-native English speaker holds a conversation with me, I am patient with them when they stumble over the vocabulary.  In the same way, I know that the kind, pitying looks that they give me in turn when I attempt to ask for a latte in their language actually hold slight respect for my efforts (FYI, “Eine Milchkaffee bitte” got me far in the six days I was in Munich recently – any German speakers reading, I apologise if that’s totally wrong but it worked for me).

I think you can all feel a rant coming on.  There is one thing in this subject that really grates on me.  I know a man who, despite not knowing any second – let alone third or fourth – language, has no patience whatsoever for the millions of people that have learnt English.  If a non-native speaker doesn’t catch his sentences first time, he gets louder as he repeats them. Again and again and again.  They’re not deaf, you moron!  Just slow down your speed-of-light conversations and whoever you’re talking to will understand.  But no, he gets louder.  He gets irate and frustrated at the difficulty of the situation and takes it out on the poor person that learnt all of our strange syntactical rules and ever-varying words.  Worst of all, he then proceeds to give them a withering stare and a what-do-you-do-with-these-lowly-people glance towards his native English-speaking friends.

I had a conversation with a friend about this the other day and we were trying to decide which languages we would learn if we felt we could achieve such a mindblowing feat.  At school, I always found French the easiest to grasp and, ten years since I stopped learning the language for all eternity, I actually remember quite a bit.  German was, unfortunately, never my strong point so that’s out of the window already.  Along the road of my 23 years, I’ve picked up bits of Chinese, Turkish, Spanish and Italian – but nothing near even a conversational competency.

Furthermore, with a little more research, I discovered that English is not even the most spoken language in the world – Spanish and Chinese seem to take the top two places as far as most Internet sources tell me.  In terms of my job, the most useful languages I could learn would be Spanish (ermmm…possible), but most importantly, almost vitally, German (bugger).

For now, I think I will just stick with pleases, thank yous, hellos and goodbyes accompanied by a healthy dose of crazy hand gestures.

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2 Responses to “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet”

  1. Great post Caroline! 🙂

    I completely see what you mean about the languages. Especially those that are SO different, like Chinese/Japanese/Russian. It always annoys me when I hear people saying things about other people’s accents etc, and I feel like saying, let’s hear you try and speak Chinese then!

    We used to have a lot of students doing their degrees in English, even though it was their second language which I just found astonishing! Whenever I go abroad, I always make sure that I at least know how to say the basics, so ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thanks’, ‘please’, ‘Can I have?’ etc. Oh and ‘Where are the toilets’ and ‘Can I have a beer please’. (These are pretty essential too I think!

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