"Meine Frage an Sie war auf Deutsch gestellt. Warum antworten Sie mir auf Englisch?"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

BOOYAH! That's what you say if you want to improve your German in Germany while losing a potential friend at the same time. Thanks to Antonielly for this link which he mentioned here.

Though on the whole I think it's ridiculous that people that would like to see their mother tongue have a greater status in Europe revert so often to English even with people that are trying to learn German, I have a bit of sympathy for one of the cases where:

As I say, my German really is pretty fluent, thanks in large part to my having insisted on speaking it for the last three years (I recommend this to anyone who really wants to learn this rather complex language). I've taken a hell of a lot of class and worked ever so hard on it. But my German ability seems to actually annoy Germans rather than please them. Tonight I was having a pleasant conversation with some Germans with a friend who doesn't speak German well at all, and as she left, I asked if I might be able to speak a little German with them, as I hadn't had much practise over the Christmas holidays. They did speak German, but changed from being happy go-lucky in manner, speaking accented English, to giving me sour looks and constantly dropping in English sentences then translating them into German or vice versa.
In this case I think it's more a matter of how jarring it is to suddenly be asked to switch languages like that. Generally a conversation isn't just a subject that exists out there on its own but is also wrapped up within the flow of the language that it's being conversed in, and when you're suddenly asked to switch to a new language it can be a bit difficult to maintain the flow. What's easier (once the unilingual English speaker has left) is to start bringing in more and more German into the conversation, because assuming that the guy is fluent in German and the people he's with are also German, he'll be able to riff off of them when they say things to each other in German and eventually establish a new flow in German instead of the original English. It has to be more natural then "okay, time for German now, all right?"

With the other situations mentioned in the thread though it's clear that there seems to be a problem with Germans and promoting their own language. Why so quick to revert to English?

The situation is similar in Korea as well, where a lot of people are eager to practice their English and don't seem to believe that a non-Asian non-Korean could ever master the language. That means you always have to be quick on your feet. When asked "What would you like to order?" in Korean, you can't just hum and haw a bit like someone else might because they'll think you didn't understand, so it has to be lightning quick. And the more complex the order the better, because it shows that you know the language. Extra shot with low-fat milk and extra whipped cream. And I want a 현금영수증 (a kind of tax rebate system used with receipts). Bam! Now they'll stick with Korean. That's likely to work in countries like Germany as well if you're good at the language. Make orders as complex as possible.

On an unrelated note, this is the first video that pops up on YouTube when you type in Meine Frage. See, they don't speak German either.


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