Monday, August 29, 2011

Vorsprung durch Sprache

My German’s gone to the dogs. Zur Hunde gegangen as the Germans would say if they weren’t allergic to metaphors*. So I’m starting another course tomorrow.
In truth, it’s probably not that bad, and might even be getting better, but my German’s nowhere near as good as I want it to be. I won’t be happy until I speak it better than the natives, until people stop showing me how bad it is by telling me how good it is.
I still curse at motorists in English when we cross paths. Once I’ve vented my fury at another gobshite, fuckbag, ass-wit, toerag or bollocks, I’m left with a disconcerting feeling of inadequacy for not expressing myself in their tongue. Sure, they get the message, but the feeling remains. And there are enough of them around to ensure I feel like that every day.
So enough. Tomorrow I start and I won’t let up until my first reaction is to curse at the motorists in their language. The next Schweinehund, Arschloch, blöde Kuh, alte Sau or Hurensohn will get the message in double quick time.
No longer will I feel like a donkey after taking part in another cross cultural exchange.

*Jenny has reliably informed me that Germans do, in fact, have “thousands of metaphors” such as: “Schweine gehabt, kalte Kaffee, Schnee von Gestern, spitz wie Nachbars Lumpi and millions of others.” I’m not sure if millions is a metaphor for thousands, or vice versa, but let it not be said that Germans are allergic to metaphors. Allergic to slagging perhaps, but not metaphors.

6 comments:

  1. at least you are trying to curse them in the mother tongue! I'm here, speaking the same language and still clinging on to my american phrases. I will freely call people jackasses, douchebags and dicks. But I have picked up the word gowl and am using it, incorrectly im sure, as far as it will take me!

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  2. Gowl must be a Limerick insult. I haven't heard it before. I like it though! I think I'll introduce it to my general lexicon.

    In fact, I'm thinking of starting a list of insults - in English and German - for convenience sake. I can post them as a separate page, and people can then add their own suggestions which I'll update as we go along. Jackasses, douchebags and dicks are all welcome of course!

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  3. i don't think they will ever stop telling you how good your german is, because:

    a) it IS good

    and

    b) as someone from an english speaking country, you're actually not supposed to speak it, since everybody would gladly speak english with you. so that also increases the dramatic effect.

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  4. "showing me how bad it is by telling me how good it is."

    Don't you hate that? My work colleagues tell me that my German is "charming", and laugh at my emails.

    It's not metaphors germans are no good at, it's swearing. Blöde Kuh? Gimme a break! I once clocked MTV Deutschland translating "skanky-assed bitch" as blöde Kuh.

    Beyond using the word shit for which the language shows a mild genius, German is a little too intellectual to swear properly in.

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  5. As a berliner i can say that i only tell the foreigners to have a good german if they really are. Thats because we are mostly directly and honest till its hurts. So i make maybe a tenth of the compliments per day as the amis do, this should make you to be glad about the rare event, shouldnt it? And to the englishspeakers who come here: no, i defenately dont like to speak englsih with my friends in my city. Its just pretty easier and funnier for me and many others because we have not the english-experience for special-word-humor like i love in meinem deutsch.

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