January 30, 2013

Ich Spreche Kein Deutsch.

I have yet to experience a stronger feeling of embarrassment than being in a country 
where the only dialog that I can bring to a native conversation is 
"Ich spreche kein Deutsch" ... (I can't speak Deutsch.)

Sure, I understand certain words and phrases,
but they don't get me very far, 
and I'm basically on a "need-to-know" basis with the German language.
Two nights ago Brutus and I were outside 
when an older gentleman approached us with a huge smile on his face. 
He bent down to treat Brutus to a head and back scratch.
Brutus loved him. 

Bru doesn't have a tail, so when he gets excited his whole bum wags back and forth.
 If you can imagine in your mind his hammy butt wagging side to side,
it's the funniest thing ever. 

The only word that I could understand while this man was showing Brutus a super dose of affection was "gross!"
("Gross" in Deutsch = "Large" in English.

I shook my head and smiled ... and together, the man and I were both laughing over how "gross" Brutus is. 

"Ja! Sehr Gross!" (Yes, very big!) I finally brought myself to reply, 
knowing damn well that my lack of a German dialect 
coupled with my shotty attempt at a sentence would be a dead giveaway that I'm a foreigner.

The man stood up and asked me a question - 
(the only reason I knew this is because I could hear the inquisitive tone in his voice), 
but of course, I had no idea what he was asking.

I smiled and embarrassingly explained, "Ich spreche kein Deutsch." 

I immediately felt uncomfortable and stupid. 

"Ach so!," said the man through a smile. 
("Ach so" sort of means "Ahhh, I understand" in English.

Then, the man surprised me -
he offered me his hand for a handshake, complimented by a hearty "Hallo!", 
before squatting down again to love on my chubby pup to tell him how gross he is, 
among other German sweet nothings. 

The man finally gave Brutty one last gentle pat on the head, 
waved and departed with a friendly "Tschuss!" 

"Ciao!" I replied ... feeling like I had just exchanged the most genuine conversation with someone since I've been in Germany.

It's amazing how much you can communicate with someone 
just by exchanging a friendly "hello". 

I encourage you to try it out with a stranger this week.


  1. What a sweet encounter?! It always makes me happy to hear about positive moments between people traveling/moving to Germany and my fellow Germans. Sometimes, all that matters, is the tone that is being exchanged, not so much actual words -- whether it is an angry or nice exchange. This reminds me of my grandpa and my ex of 4 and some years, who didn't understand 99% of what they were saying to each other, yet they seemed to have full exchanges of information about war (both veterans) and life lessons - how I don't know, but clearly, it is possible! And hey, Brutus got a great cuddle session out of it, too.

  2. What a sweet man! Learning a new language is so hard. It must be difficult for you to be in a country where you can't talk to anyone!

  3. I didn't even know that much German when I moved to Germany, and was totally overwhelmed. Luckily, that calmed down and I made it through just fine. I miss it there. What a cute pup! Or, what a schoen pup!

  4. What a lovely story! I love it when random people in my office building say hello. It's just polite instead of riding the elevator and walking the halls in silence.

  5. Love your pup. And learning German is so difficult! I have family in Munich -- they don't speak much English, I barely speak any German. When we went to visit last year it was very awkward. Charades!

  6. omg that is so funny! you're dog is precious- my dog also has a stubby tail and I love it when he wags it!

  7. Most Germans speak or at least understand some English so you can kind of have a half English/ half German conversation until you get better at it...That's what I do with my German family haha. I understand it and read it really well but I can not speak it very well because I don't trust myself..Lol. Immersing yourself is the easiest way to learn, also listening to German music and watching German movies/shows. This encounter that you described is adorable! I have been to Germany to visit family a few times and I am always amazed how friendly the people are there.

  8. Well, at least it was with a nice stranger! And now you can go home and google what he said to learn a few new phrases. ;)

  9. Ah I always hate that moment when I've used my German to it's not-so-long extent and I have to finally say sorry, ich spreche kein Deutsch, gah!

  10. I went to Germany one summer and we worked in some local schools to teach the kids about American culture, and they were so excited when we wanted to learn German. Needless to say, I'm horrible at languages, so it was more just entertainment for some of them haha. I did learn some local words from the northern area of Germany, so if you want to learn a word, let me know! :P

  11. so now you've got me curious as to why you're over there ;) I looked for an about page but couldn't find one. I am guessing it has something to do with Hockey? Does your hubby play there?
    Would love to hear more! If you ever need a translation for anything just let me know and I'd be happy to help :) Most Germans speak some English but the best thing you can do is start learning the language. I believe that your local Volkshochschule or Goethe Institut offer a variety of "german for foreigners" classes you could take. My husband took some of these as well and his German quickly became conversational :)

  12. and now I found the about page ;) The page hadn't loaded correctly...


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