Do I speak German?

Samirah asked:

Ok, what are you doing in Germany? Are you German? Do you even speak German?

Well, the story of how we met is here, and the short version of it is that I went and fell in love with a German (ahem, not German – Bavarian. Mustn’t ever confuse the two), and we had to live somewhere, so we chose the country that gave him a job. Two years in Munich, during which we had an insane baby. Then he decided he needed another Ph.D, so we moved to Madison, WI for five years. We had another baby there, who seemed reasonable at first, but his insanity has developed gradually. DrBob has yet to notice it. When he finished his Ph.D in 2001, he didn’t find a job in the U.S. There was an offer from Puerto Rico, but it was abruptly withdrawn – we think we may have run afoul of some departmental politics there. Anyway, we decided to go back to Germany because we didn’t know what else to do, and a job sort of fell into DrBob’s lap shortly afterward. Whew.

So no. Not German, but I do speak it… sort of. Not well. Partly because DrBob and I have always spoken English to eachother. We’ve tried to switch a few times, but it never worked. So my best teachers have been his parents, who don’t speak any English at all. Unfortunately, they also don’t really speak German. They speak Bavarian, which is a bit like German, only without consonants. So, um, not at all like German, then, which is pretty much all consonants. But because Bavaria has a lot of money and good schools and pretty decent weather and all that, a lot of outsiders are moving in, so German is also very widely spoken here. Which means I’ve had to learn both. Simultaneously. My grammar skills are abysmal – really dreadful, so bad I can’t even write a simple email. But because I have a kind of talent for picking up accents (thanks Dad!) people tend to think I understand more than I do, so they talk fast.

So, um, yeah. I can get by. Do the shopping, take my kids to the doctor, understand most small-talk, pretty much. I can’t pay the bills or do the bureaucracy stuff or deal with the bank or the insurance people, which means if DrBob got hit by a bus I’d be in real trouble. And I keep meaning to learn about all the paperwork etcetera, and he keeps meaning to teach me, just, you know, once he gets the book done and hang on let me finish folding the laundry and oop there’s the phone and all that.

Song du jour of the day that I have to spend in the too-hot city in the tiny office, where windows open = NOISE, and windows closed = no oxygen: Billy Idol. Hot in the City.


4 responses to “Do I speak German?

  • odie

    I spent a week in Bavaria last summer on a sort of ‘cultural exchange’, and learned early on that my college German class 25 years ago did not adequately prepare me for Bavarian conversation. One of my favorite phrases was ‘Nicht so schnell, bitte!’

  • samirah

    haha, thanks for the story.

    I have quite the extensive German vocabulary. Including the numbers 1 through 12, the word Volkswagon and the phrases ‘my name is Sam’, ‘I love beer’, and ‘do you speak german’ (which I obviously do not).

  • ~d (tilde)

    WONDERFUl insight to the life of alala! thank you!!
    (singing Billy Idol with you, sista!)

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