I really have a new appreciation for people in America who don’t know English. Here in Germany every one speaks to me in German at first and I try to understand, but usually just give them a deer in the headlights look before asking “English?” Most of the time they are able to respond, but I feel bad that I even have to ask. I feel like I should have some ability to speak German. I mean I am in a country where German is the national language and I spent a whole year of college studying it. I really try to understand what people are saying and it is a little easier with people I talk to on a regular basis. For instance, the ladies who work in the childcare area at the gym are all older German women who don’t speak much English. They speak to me in a combination of German and the little bit of English they know. Most of the time we seem to understand each other, but sometimes it does involve some hand gestures and charades. We are both trying and it helps that we have a relationship.
I’ve started to get a little better at understanding numbers so I know how much to pay for things. Luckily if I don’t understand I can just check the screen on the register. I can also give greetings and say goodbye. FYI, I have not heard one person say auf wiedersehen since we’ve arrived. It always tchüss or ciao. Also don’t get your pronunciation of danke schön from Wayne Newton. The correct pronunciation is shoen. Aside from these and a few other words I’m pretty lost. Like I said though most people speak English.
I also find this to be very interesting. We as Americans go places where English is not the national language, especially in Europe and we expect the people there to be able to speak to us in English. It is pretty presumptuous and egotistical really, but most of us don’t know another language fluently. Here in Europe they do. It is not uncommon to find someone that knows three languages. It seems like as the necessity to know different languages in the US decreased we no longer placed a high value on it, but here in Europe you can live just an hour away from a country where a different language is spoken, so you need to learn it. It would be really great to see Americans put a stronger emphasis on learning other languages and at an early age. By the time people are in high school it is much more difficult to learn. It would really make us more worldly and I think help with the image that we think we are superior to others. It is a very humbling experience to walk around and not know what others are saying around you or directly to you.
I’m going to keep trying to pick up what I can and make sure to be thankful to those who are willing to help me out.