Speaking in (foreign) tongues

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:



Not Lead Free, but Super!

Not Lead Free, but Super!


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!


2 responses to “Speaking in (foreign) tongues

  1. Beautiful stuff. Wait till you start slipping in entire dependent clauses in another language “because it’s easier to express that way”


  2. Particularly in German – after all it is the only language that admits to “schadenfreude”.

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