Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Field Guide to German English Speakers

When I moved to Germany, I wanted to learn some German of course, so I took 3 classes of German. However, often I don’t know enough German to communicate what I need, and since I live in a University town many people speak English. However, it is important to know what level of English they know so you can know how to talk to the person. To determine what type of English Speaker you have spotted, ask them the following question:

“Sprechen Sie Englisch?”
(Do you speak English)

Depending on the answer, you will know what you are dealing with. If the answer is:

1. Nein!

Name:bureaucratius nonhelpfulus”.
Description: They can’t or won’t speak English. Get out your phrase book. They will look askance at your German.
Environment: Large Instutions, such as the Post Office or the Bank.

2. Nein, schlect.

Name:deutschius speakerus”.
Description: They haven’t learned English. Try your German, they will try very hard to understand you.
Environment: The Doctor’s office personnel, aside from the Doctors.

3. Ein Bisschen

Name: “unconfidentius speakerus
Description: They know a little English, but more than they think. If you stick to talking about what they sell, you may be okay.
Subtype:colleagueius fetchicus” If you overwhelm them, they will fetch a colleague who they think speaks better English.
Environment: Large Stores, such as Saturn or Staples.

4. A Little

Name: “prettygoodius speakerus
Description: They actually speak English fairly well but won’t admit it. You can speak about what they sell/do with no problem.
Environment: Large Stores, such as OBI.

5. Yes

Name:confidentius speakerus”.
Description: They can speak English very well.
Environment: Owner-owned stores, Doctors, people who work for large companies.

6. Of Course!

Name: “overconfidentius speakerus”.
Description: Why wouldn’t I speak English? I can’t believe you even asked.
Environment: High End stores, such as Tommy Hilfiger.

7. Bonus Type of speaker

Name:Sneakius speakerus”.
Description: Recognize that you speak English from your conversation with the people with you or your terrible German Accent, even though you ask for “Zwei Hamburgers” answer you in English. Seem to be happy that their English has come in handy even though they are working retail.
Environment: Fast Food places, Grocery Store.


thelimeandthecoconut said...

I love this! And it's so true! Especially the first and last. Everybody at my local s-bahn station store listens to my terribly accented request for whatever it is I've run out of that day, and they always answer in English no matter how sure I am that I've got the German right. They sometimes like to say the total amount in both languages, just to show off. :) As opposed to the attendant in the train station kiosk with German and British flags all over it and signs in English advertising that you could get help. Straight away, 'Nein!'

Blopper said...

Just went to Burger King and after asking for "Zweimal Whopper Menu, ohne kase ohne mayo"
(2 Whopper menus without cheese or mayo) the cashier answered "Would you like Fries with that?"

lytha said...

perfect, this is hilarious. esp #3 and #7.

the other day at a new bakery i asked about the types of bread (i still haven't learned how to order a white sourdough...or does that not exist?).

my german is not bad, but the lady immediately faltered and said, "oh, my english isn't so good."


i know they're only trying to be helpful but if only they knew how disheartening it is for those of us trying so hard to assimilate.

TheGonch said...

Love it!

One modification: #5 will not speak English as well as they think they do, which can be quite embarrassing when they start correcting native speakers...