Ich spreche Deutsch…Quatsch!
Learning another language has been an interesting, frustrating and demanding adventure. I’ve been working for the past month in a German design firm, where it is pretty crutial for me to make as much effort as possible to both understand and speak in German. After a long week of design challenges, compounded by cultural challenges and language challenges, I’m pretty fried – but I must say, I do learn something interesting, funny or useful about German everyday that I would never learn if I hadn’t immersed myself in the culture.
Last week was a lesson about context, English words that mean totally different things in German, and German words that have alternate meanings in English – of course all stories are a little inappropriate, so if you are a child or have virgin ears, I suggest you skip to the end!
Example A: I was going to lunch with the boys the other day and having a fairly decent conversation in German. I was understanding perfectly, and responding correctly (or so I thought) until the person with whom I was speaking asked me “Wo ist Klas?” (Klas is another colleague). “Wo ist Klas?” means in English, Where is Klas? So I responded, “im Keller” – in the basement (the locale for our office space.) Then he said again, “Nein, nein. Was ist Klas? Italienisch?” and in my head I’m thinking, of course he is not in Italy, he was just in the bloody office. I looked at him and said, I don’t undersand, “Klas ist im Keller, nicht im Italien.” Finally, he looked at me and said,”No Rachel, what is Klas eating?” Ok…so, in the Er/Sie/Es (He/She/It) conjugation, “He is” is Er ist, “He eats” is Er isst – something I cannot decipher from hearing! And he wasn’t asking me Where, he was asking me What! I felt so defeated…damn German words that sound exactly the same!
Example B: I brought a peach to the office that was a little overripe. When I bit into it, the whole things was…well…mushy. So I said, in English, loud enough apparently for my colleague to hear, “Ugh, this peach is so mushy” as it was dripping down my face. The dudes in my room started to silently giggle (I share an office space with 3 guys). “What?” I asked…”what’s so funny? what did I say now?” Apparently “mushy” or spelled in German as “muschi” is a vulgar word for vagina! Oops!
Example C: When you are walking down the street, you will see “Schmuck” written all over the place atop beautiful shops filled with jewelry – that’s because “Schmuck” in German, pronounced more like “schmook” means “Jewelry” – I thought that was funny. As is the word in German for “thick” which is “dick.” I’m giggling just thinking about the German-English puns to be produced from that one.
So while I’m not confusing the difference between being and eating, thick and dick, and trying not to describe any fruit as mushy, things are going rather swimmingly. Now if I can only figure out how to say things in the future tense so I can tell people that I will learn German one day – that would be nice!
Typography ©Lezilus / Quote by Oscar Wilde
I’ll leave you with this strange video that I’m sure will leave you terribly confused. It’s a linguistic representation of what English sounds like to a non-English speaker…have fun with it: