The subject chosen by the Loose Bloggers Consortium for this Friday is Getting Things Wrong in a Foreign Language.
Honestly, I am the least competent person around when it comes to learning a foreign language. When I arrived in Germany for my husband’s two year assignment, I signed up for a Berlitz class. Since the instructor only taught in German and I only spoke English, it was ridiculously slow. For example when the first lesson had to do with a boy named Peter, the instructor clearly called him Pater with a long sound of A. The teacher in me took over and I had the strongest desire to correct the poor man’s pronunciation so I emphatically stated, Peter with a long e. We went back and forth for a time before he gave up and told me in English he wanted me to say it his way. I did not last long in Berlitz classes. I found the only people who understood me were others in the class and they were Middle Eastern business men who learned more quickly and took life more seriously than me.
This was back in the 1960’s and most German shop clerks spoke some English so it wasn’t much of a problem. I got so good at saying,” Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch.” ( I speak only a little German,) that they would smile and say, “You speak very well.” and then we would change to English. Not so when I travelled to Austria. I swear the Austrians have some kind of teacher gene in them. They would let me struggle with my sentences, then smile and in nearly perfect English, correct my grammar and my pronunciation. I loved them for it.
There was an incident in Austria of ”getting things wrong”, that I remember with chagrin. My parents came over for a visit and my mom and I were having a glass of wine in a rather bawdy pub. A young man struck up a conversation with us and I was, I thought showing off my ability to speak German Needless to say this renegade was a little drunk and rather loud. A fact I was not totally aware of because I wasn’t completely understanding him and I was concentrating on speaking German.
When a nearby couple overhearing the conversation, came to my rescue and laughingly explained that while I was talking about the thrill of mountain climbing in the Alps, I had given the young man the impression that I was looking for different kind of mountain high and when I was talking about hiking boots, he was talking about condoms.
My lothario had by this time left for greener pastures and I, beet red with embarrassment, thanked the young couple and decided it was safer to stay with English. Go figure! I can’t even imagine what I had said and frankly I was too mortified to try to comprehend the explanation as translated by our deliverers.
We thanked the couple and drank a glass of wine with them before leaving for our Guest House. My mother being my mother, was about to lecture me on the dangers we might have faced back in the bar, but suddenly the cold night air and the two or three glasses of wine set in and she started to giggle. We laughed all the way back to our rooms and if she were alive today, she would be looking over my shoulder saying, “ It may not have seemed so at the time, but looking back it was pure comedy and a great adventure. I am glad you are finally sharing the story.”
Please read other’s adventures with foreign language. I know I will. The LBC writers are listed under Writers Consortium on the right hand side of my blog.