Friday, February 28, 2014

German Survival Guide: Month One

I don't think I said a word in German my first day here. Maybe a self-conscious "guten tag." I was overwhelmed that so many words could slip past me in a blur of meaningless noise. German no longer German but Deutsche.

Today I'm not so much overwhelmed as underwhelmed: I could hear the most articulate speech ever orated and continue on with my day relatively untouched. I'm picking up small phrases slowly but surely however, and while my small linguistic triumphs at grocery stores and restaurants are quickly toppled by the inevitable indiscernible reply, at least I can walk away thinking Hey, so I did pronounce that right after all. 

Below are the words I use the most on a daily basis (and commentary). My list is nowhere near impressive, and even a little sparse, but I have fond memories attached to each phrase. Here's to building another full list this coming month!

German Survival Guide: Month One
  • Guten tag - Good day!
  • Danke/Danke schoen - Thanks/Thank you very much (I noticed I said "danke" more than the locals so I switched to danke schoen which seems to be more polite and sincere). 
  • Bitte/Bitte schoenPlease/ You're welcome/ Here you go/ May I help you?/Pardon? (One of those lovely multi-functioning, easy words.)
  • Guten morgen/morgen - Good morning! (People in the office say it like GUTen MOOORG-en, it's a very hearty greeting exchanged in that early time of day.) 
  • Entschuldigung - Excuse me/Sorry (In my naive days I've since far surpassed--ha!--I asked my supervisor Ralf to help me pronounce this word. I kept on repeating it with different pronunciations quite loudly in a very public place, not realizing that it probably sounded like I was upset. Or  rude. Or just crazy.)
  • Ja - (Ja know whaddimean?)
  • Nein - (Good for shooing away random strangers who want your euros.)
  • Ich sprechen eine bisschen Deutsche - (This is what I say to impress the missionaries who ask me if I speak any German. "Bisschen"--little--is an exaggeration.) 
  • Sprechen sie Englische? - (Asked this to the owner of a local bakery before I ordered. She said "yes.")
  • Keine zwiebeln bitte - No onions please (I didn't want smelly breath after I ate my doner kebab)
  • Tschuess - Bye! (It took me forever to figure out how to spell this one so I could look up the actual meaning. Just a casual goodbye).
  • Ich bin verloren - I'm lost! Come rescue me! (Well, mostly just the former definition, but the latter was implied. Handy when your landlords only speak German). 
  • Haben Sie einen Englisch-MenĂ¼? - (The Thai place a couple train stops down the street has one.)
  • Genau - Precisely/ Exactly/Correct (I hear this in conversation ALL. THE. TIME. and again, just barely figured out how to spell it.)
  • Wie viel kostet das? - (Just in case you're running low on $$$). 
  • Haben sie backen pulver?- (I was at a grocery store so obviously they had baking powder. I just couldn't find it.)
I just spent the night with my lovely upstairs English neighbor who is also inconveniently engaged to a man in another country. I feel like a list of English slang should also be forthcoming. But as for now, tschuess!

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