My weekend was full of my favorite new language, Germlish. Communication in a new language can be equal parts rewarding and confusing, and these days, my goal is for conversations to be mostly rewarding and just a little confusing.
My Germlish skills vary depending on the scenario and/or with whom I’m speaking — sometimes it’s basically nothing but English and the classic smile-and-nod, sometimes it’s a really “creative” German-English combo with sign language for extra clarity, and sometimes – the times I like the best – I manage to chirp out some German sentences with decent, or even clear, understanding of what the other person is telling me.
Friday, Jacco and I walked through the farmer’s market in Dresden and concluded the shopping trip at Karstadt, where I bought a postcard and some other touristy things. In an effort to “learn the money,” a.k.a. figure out which fancy coins are which in the Euro system, I checked out at the register without allowing myself to ask Jacco, “Ok, so can you find €7.68 for me?”
I dug through my Katze-shaped coin purse for the closest change I could find while I stood in line. I could tell Jacco was watching my progress. The line in front of me shortened. I’m panicking. Honestly, it’s like I’m back in Kindergarten learning the difference between a nickel and a dime — except now I’m 23 years old and feeling extremely humbled by this ridiculous challenge. Finally, it was my turn to hand the clerk my merchandise and my exact €7.68. I smiled to myself and thought, “Nailed it.“
Later, Jacco asked me, “Did you know the cashier at Karstadt was talking to you when you were in line?”
Me: “What? No, I had no idea…”
Jacco: “Yeah, she told you to move up and use her register! You were so concentrated on finding your money, you didn’t hear her!”
Jacco apparently thought it was endearing and cute, but I was embarrassed. I felt like an idiot. The difference, I’m learning, between a second language and a native language is the active listening involved in the new language. Understanding German, at this point, is not without its effort. It takes energy and attentiveness — but that’s what leads to those rewarding conversations that I’m learning to appreciate so much.
Today, Jacco and I visited a friend and his wife who agreed to teach me German lessons this fall! I’m so excited. I can’t wait to turn my Germlish into actual, grammatically accurate, legitimate German!!!!
Last night, Jacco performed with the Robert Schumann Philarmonie in Chemnitz for their open air concert, the beginning of this year’s season. The finale was “Themes aus Star Wars” — and someone put an incredible amount of time and planning into a perfectly-timed firework show, which had me completely geeking out. It’s great to know Star Wars and fireworks transcend all languages.
Here’s to an awesome week of new experiences.