Learning a new language in the country of where that language is spoken quickly makes one very humble, after all the 3 year old children speak more fluently than you do. Traveling in France one doesn’t easily forget the sound of children pointing and expressing their delight in something or other with a musical: “Ooh la la Maman”.
Still, like a child learning to walk and getting great pleasure out of every step, I have begun to see progress. For instance we are currently in class doing a chapter on cars – sadly for me I don’t know most of these words in English, let alone German.
However, my local bike shop were very congratulatory when I was able to explain (for the 2nd time in two weeks) that “Der Reifen am mein Fahrrad ist Kaputt“. This provoked lots of laughter, and a bit of head shaking (translation “weren’t you here last week?”). I remained strong and with the help of lots of pointing said: “Lezte Woche der Reifen, hinter, ist Kaputt, diese Woche es ist der andere“. Smiles and nods all round!
In German class we also had a free discussion on cars which touched on das Benzin (petrol) and specifically whether Benzin in Deutschland was mit Blei oder Bleifrei (lead or lead-free). This segued into another discussion: Ist das Wasser in Deutschland Bleifrei? (this is of course a side issue, but as I am drinking it stright from the tap I was quite interested…?).
The result of all this discussion was that on my way home I could understand the ad for a new Krimi (Crime drama) on die Fernsehen (TV). It’s the little things:
And it seems I am almost trilingual. Last night, when leaving my local Backerai to head to the practice room, I was engaged in conversation by a man who noticed my bike falling over. When I excused myself by saying “Pardon” he (quite naturally) assumed I was French. We had a bit of a conversation in French till he noticed me faltering (not on the language, mind you, I just did not want to answer whether “Chez moi est-elle près d’ici ?”). He then asked the question in English, which I (falteringly) answered in German.
Looking for escape I took a step back which caused me to loudly exclaim, first in my Mutter Sprache and then, when he asked what was wrong, in both German and French. It seems there are a couple of words I can say in 3 languages, and I unfortunately stepped in it!