Monday, August 10, 2009

Why I Spoke Bad German for 3.5 Hours

Yesterday I spoke non-stop German for the longest time in my life. Three and a half hours. It was bad.

I heard myself using the wrong forms of the verb "to have", starting a past-tense sentence with "ich habe" only to realize the verb at the end required an "ich bin" (but by then it was too late to go back and start over), and also partaking in my very favorite habit of leaving off the verb entirely since having to place it at the end of a sentence after words like "because" makes me forget I even need to use a verb in the first place.

Throughout my butcherings of the German language, my German friend spoke to me like I hadn't just said things like "My husband, her have today lunch with girlfriend". Instead, she kept the conversation going, translating my bad German to good.

I don't know how she did it.

But then again, what's a few wrong verbs combined with a hundred misplaced articles when you've perfected more important words like "Super" and "Genau"? Communication always comes down to filling in the blanks anyway. So while I imagined what my friend was saying, she imagined what I was trying to say. It was really a win-win.

That is why I was able to speak bad German for 3.5 hours. Because I finally found someone patient enough to listen for more than two minutes before switching to English. And for that, all I can say is a grateful danke vielmal. Maybe I'll actually get better someday. Because I think all that's between me speaking bad German and me speaking good German is that one person who will actually listen.

7 comments:

cadiz12 said...

a patient native speaker is the best way to finally get comfortable speaking the language with confidence. good luck!

Chantal said...

You are right but they are not easy to find.

MP said...

We had the same experience in China...people just assumed we were speaking English and not really, really bad Chinese. Even if we were speaking correctly they still pretended they couldn't understand us. Because really, a foreigner that can speak Chinese?!? Impossible!

Amanda said...

I'm very impressed that you went on for 3.5 hours! The most can speak in bad German is about 10 minutes...

Chantal said...

Keep in mind this ability of bad German speaking took three years to master. And Mark Twain did say German is a language that takes 30 years to get right. (And he wasn't trying to live among Swiss German speakers either!) So we're probably talking 40 years if you're living in Switzerland. Now there's a comforting thought...

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