Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Sorry, my German is not so good

'Sorry, my German is not so good', is a catch phrase I have used many, many times.

At the weekend we were invited to our new neighbours’ flat warming party. We were good neighbours in that we brought a gift with us. We were bad neighbours in that we brought the gift of being monoglot. In spite of the guest list being a mix of nationalities including German (mostly), Brazilian, Russian and we English, the hosts asked everyone to talk to us in English - so we wouldn’t feel left out. We apologised profusely for our lack of conversational German. (As a nation the English may be poor at languages, but we’re certainly good at apologising.)

At this stage I should point out that we are still taking regular German lessons. Though I don’t know how much goes in, as the lessons are in the evenings when I am generally exhausted from growing a small person inside me and Simon is run down from a hard day at work.

Our German teacher does try some interesting tacks to keep us awake. He is quite obsessed with sex – which I guess is good news for his Dutch boyfriend – and never a lesson passes without him saying something completely obscene, which always sharpens the hearing. Sometimes he is just making a comment and it comes out like that, but other times he weaves sex into his teaching scheme. For example, thanks to his tuition I now know how to say, 'The orgasm was long' in German. Though I've yet to find a good way to use this in polite conversation.

Anyway, going back to the housewarming…it strikes me that we are very lucky to have such friendly neighbours, who have gone out of their way to welcome us. Certainly whenever I have lived in flats in England it wouldn’t have occurred to me to invite the neighbours around. In England I think it’s more typical to leave the conversation with neighbours to chance encounters in the lift/by the front door. And as for talking to them in another language, well, I'd just have to apologise and say my other languages are not so good, unless they want to trade obscenities...

1 comment:

Ali & Dave said...

Very friendly neighbours indeed. Be careful when you unleash your conversational German on them for the first time, you may have been secretly taught all sorts of obscenities...