Stupid Americans/Language Skills….

I found this funny little bit of video from a Canadian TV Show— it’s on YouTube, but you can find a link to it and more examples here on boing-boing. It is one of those things that is certainly on my mind while I am here being a stupid American– or trying not to be too stupid of an American.

In Italy– specifically, the very American-heavy tourist center of Florence– just about everyone spoke English well enough to communicate and they were perfectly comfortable doing so, too. I did feel like I wish I would have known a little more Italian, that I would have actually listened to the CDs that I bought and/or taken a class or something. A little would have been better than nothing.

Now, compare that experience with Germany. Where we are at is popular with the German tourists, and some Italians too, but not so much with English speakers. But that’s okay since Annette speaks very solid Germany, her mom is actually German (though she has been in the US for so long that some of the natives here confuse her with an American who just speaks perfect German), and I have some rudimentary German skills. So here’s the thing: here in Germany, we are trying harder to speak German, and we kind of have to try harder since the locals don’t have that great of English skills.

It has been interesting. My most common German phrase is “My Deutsch ist sehr schlecht” (which means “my German is very bad”). However, I have learned that:

  • They like it when you try. Often, Germans will say (back to me in German, usually) something like “oh, your German isn’t bad at all.”
  • A combination of German and English pretty much will get me by.
  • I feel like all those failed years of college German are coming back to me rather quickly, and I bet if I were here for another two or so weeks, I’d be in pretty good shape, Deutsch-wise.
  • The Germans sometimes like practicing their English on the stupid Americans. We had a nice chat with a guy in the train station (who worked for the train station) about the automatic ticket machine. Several of the choices on this machine we used to buy train tickets to Innsbruck tomorrow were irrelevant. As I read the instructions (which were in English), I said “oh, that doesn’t matter” out loud. It took this guy a while, but he had a lightbulb moment (“ah– auf Deutsch, sag man ‘machts nichts'”). So I spread a little love, I guess.

I would upload some pictures, but I’m running out of time. I might have one more post before we come home on Monday. The short version: yesterday, we were in Munich, which was okay– too many tourists (again), and just a lot of walking, though we did see some cool churches and a fun market area. Today, back in Mittenwald. Will went hiking with the grandparents while Annette and I shopped a little. I bought a very cool Mittenwald Brauerei hat, and a snowglobe (of course). I suspect there will be some more gifty shopping for friends and family on Saturday, in part because we didn’t get much of a chance to do that in Florence and in part because stuff is dramatically cheaper here. Tomorrow we’re going to Innsbruck; Sunday back to Munich to get ready to get on the plane on Monday.

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