Dixie Peach: Everyone Turn Around. Now Wave.

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Everyone Turn Around. Now Wave.

You're waving at one of my readers, Kerry. Know what's special about Kerry? She speaks English. I know that you speak English too and don't think that speaking English is any great shakes but one thing that Kerry has over you is that she happens to live in Magdeburg. Yeah, there are other English speakers here in Magdeburg but for the most part the only kinds of English speakers I ever run into are college students here at the university on an exchange program, their parents when they come visit their precious American child studying at the university and the occasional Asian or African student who doesn't seem to be able to speak German worth a damn and who are bollocksed up at a shop and they know enough English to have me play translator.

Example: The other week while I was at the confectionery section of the department store buying some chocolates for B there was a young Asian man who was trying to convey to the saleslady that there was a special French chocolate that he was look for. He kept saying it was French and the saleslady couldn't think of a French chocolate they sold. Swiss, yes. Belgian, yes. French, no. She asked him if he could tell her the name of the chocolate and he replied in English "I don't really speak German". A-ha! Time for Super Nosy Translator Lady to horn in. I asked him in English "What's the name of the chocolate?" and when he replied "It's called Merci," I told him there was a whole bunch of it right behind his head and then explained to the saleslady that it was the Merci chocolates he was looking for and that he must have thought they were French chocolates because merci is a French word. The young man and the saleslady were both thankful that I could translate and that he could find what he wanted to buy. I didn't have the heart to tell him he was buying some not-all-that-special German brand chocolate that could be found cheaper at any grocery store in the city.

When speaking English to anyone except my husband is such a treat for me that helping out a young man to buy overpriced chocolate makes my whole day, you can imagine how happy I was to get an email from Kerry. She let me know that she's read my blog and she and her family moved to Magdeburg a couple months ago and she'd like to meet me sometime. Yay!

This will be a good time for me to tell you what it's like for me to meet someone for the first time. Call this an explanation and, if you ever have the opportunity to meet me, a warning as well. When I first meet you I will likely be rather quiet. I will desperately engage in small talk. The weather will be discussed. Traveling to our meeting spot will be discussed. And then at some point - usually when all small talk topics have been exhausted - me and the person I'm meeting will hit upon a topic in which we'll both have some interest in and then I'll be off. I'll be like a house a-fire. I won't talk non-stop...I'm actually pretty good at letting others chime in. I like to think I'm a pretty good listener and I don't believe I dominate conversations. But I'll warn you now - if you don't like to talk, don't bother meeting me.

Just the idea of being able to speak freely in English to someone has made me almost giddy. I can speak English to B whenever I want but there's something about speaking English to a native speaker in person that's even more special.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh wow.i am one of your asian people who do not speak german and speak good enough english.if you dont mind,do write about your town more because here in frankfurt as i am sure you know,lots of people speak english.i am living but sad proof that you can get by here without speaking local language for more than 5 yrs.although i am going to the classes now.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is so true! I think we made a lot of small talk when we met face to face, Kim! Look at us now!

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely understand your feelings. I have spent a total of about 8 weeks in Russia and Kazakhstan on my adoption trips to get my kids, and I was always thrilled to find people who were native English speakers. I can speak some Russian, but it's just easier not to have to mentally translate everything.

When I was in Kazakhstan in 2007 I found several American couples there also, for adoption trips, and we hung out in the hotel and made friends quite easily. It was so nice to have others to talk to who were going through the same emotions.

I speak French, Italian, and a little Russian, but the only things I can say reasonably well in German are "one beer, please" "poophead" and "No, I don't speak German." Of course, if push came to shove I could probably remember some of my Hogan's Heroes German phrases...

2:16 PM  
Blogger UmmFarouq said...

Poophead! I learned that one in German in 1987. Kinda stuck with me. I know German food terms from working in the German bakery for several years, but that's about it. That's my next language to tackle, once I master Arabic. (ha! better just sign up for German now)

Hurrah for ex-pat link-ups!

Hey my word verification word is real: MINTS. How do you say that in German?

6:11 PM  
Blogger J said...

Glad to hear that you've found another native English speaker. There aren't a lot in my town, but I work for a language school and am able to talk to others every work day.

However, when I travel to countries I don't speak the language of, I am usually quite glad to find another one after being without for a while.

10:49 PM  

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