Sunday, October 21, 2007

Back to German 101

I speak fairly good German. I passed a test in college in the U.S. that would allow me to study in Germany (ZMP). I converse in German on a regular basis with my team at work. I translate from German into English for the congregation I attend.

So, why is that when I walk into hardware store I am back at level 1, or below? I don't know the German words for things. Then I suddenly forget all of the English words related to the item I would like to discuss with the friendly store attendant. And that means I have no chance in real German (thinking and speaking), or brushed together German (i.e., translating from English into German on the fly). Some recent examples include: screws and washers (Schrauben und Scheiben), herbicides (Unkrautbekämpfungsmittel), names of certain weeds, such as clover (der Klee), or barbecuing terms (lighter fluid, charcoal [Holzkohle], etc). I get stuck at Square one.

Perhaps I simply need a bit more humility. I should accept defeat prior to the battle. I should learn to live with my language handicap, that I am not 100% fluent no matter how much German I've had and learn to do some stinkin prep work before going to the hardware store.

3 comments:

Bek said...

There are always going to be words you don't know in a foreign language, no matter how long and how well you speak the language. I still get stuck too in English when it comes to "special" vocabulary, words you just don't use on a regular basis in normal life. Hardware expressions I barely know in German, so of course I wouldn't know them in a foreign language:)

heather said...

I recently had a similar situation, at the German eye doctor's office, I didn't know any of the specialized "eye vocabulary".

The next time I was at the bookstore I picked up a German/English illustrated dictionary (similar to the Richard Scary kid's dictionary if you remember those, but for adults).

It has 300 some pages of color photos, with English/German names, and most importantly it is indexed and grouped by subject so you can pick up the main words on a topic all in one or two pages, such as hardware, eye care, etc.

Would highly recommend such a thing, to make that prep work that you mention easy. :-)

Gardner said...

thanks for sharing the similar experiences.

@@heather - Those picture dictionaries are helpful, we have a black and white version. I should probably just bring it with me for such events.

@@beck - the sad thing about trying to explain what a clover was that I used the comparison of St. Patrick's Day and the shamrock. Didn't get me anywhere in good old Germany.

March 2007