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Speaking German a little (and eating)

Everyone said I could speak English, but I tried speaking in German anyway. At least when I ordered food, I tried. Even then, I often asked “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” (my spelling is likely atrocious).

Before going, I bought Rosetta Stone for German and practiced it a bit. I hardly got through any of it, though. Just enough to get a few basic vocabulary words down and a tiny bit of grammar. I became familiar with the sounds and how to speak in certain patterns. For example, s becomes sh when paired with another consonant. A word spelled like Stadt is pronounced shtahdt.

I was pretty open to trying German but felt anxious. What made me anxious (and excited) was that I really was going to learn more by trying than by classroom learning. I’ve already studied two languages classroom style. I think I am better in both of them than in German at this point, but it was exciting to just let go and learn by doing (and doing poorly).

One of the first things I struggled with was ordering a chocolate roll for breakfast. People often call it a chocolate croissant, but that’s a misnomer, since croissant means crescent and the roll is a rectangular shape even if made in the same style of dough as a croissant. Anyway, I went into the bakery and saw the labels in the food case for all the treats. It seemed easy enough from the start. I spotted the chocolate roll and asked for it.

This is the butchery (or Fleischerei) I went to for lunch a couple of times.

“Ein schokobrochten, bitte,” I said (pronouncing it as Eyn shocko-broke-ten bit-teh). The lady at the counter started to move and then froze with a blank look. I repeated myself but with a question tone, like I doubted what I was saying. She did nothing. I looked at the case and pointed to the chocolate roll. “Das, bitte.” She said something in German and chuckled. I chuckled also. I knew I made a mistake. I looked back down at the sign. I meant to say “Ein schokobrotchen” (pronounced Eyn shocko-broshen), or little chocolate bread. I have no idea what I actually said, but clearly it was weird.

On the other hand, the little bit of German I learned actually helped me once or twice. In particular, at lunch time. I went to a butchery that served hot lunch, and when I first went, I asked for someone to speak English. They helped me get some pork schnitzel and cauliflower with gravy. I then sat near the counter and listened as they helped other people and spoke in German to them. I found out pork schnitzel was “schwine schnitzel” (pronounced shvine-uh shnit-zel) and the turkey was “pute schnitzel” (pronounced “poot-uh shnit-zel”). I made a list of the veggies that I planned to learn through Google translate later that day.

Here is the Schwine schnitzel I ordered from the butchery.

The next time I went back I was completely prepared. Well, not really. They changed all their veggies, so I had to figure out what I could order. It just so happened they had green beans, which I realized I might know how to ask for. I learned the word for green with Rosetta Stone and read my friend’s coffee bag, so I picked up the word for bean. I gave it a try. “Schwine schnitzel mit grune bohne?” I ordered tentatively. The woman nodded and plated my food. It felt like such an achievement, I smiled.

It was great having to struggle like that in German. I think they appreciated that I tried, and I enjoyed these tiny moments. It has definitely helped me think more about what other people struggle with when trying to speak English as a second language.

And now, here’s some other food I ate.

This was a tasty lemon frosting pastry I tried one morning instead of chocolate bread.

Once, we went out to a pizzeria and enjoyed personal pizzas with drinks.

This is Currywurst (pronounced “kury-verst). It was a fun foodcart dish we enjoyed.

I can’t remember what this is called, but my friend wanted me to try it. It was delicious.

My friend enjoyed beer while I stuck with wine and cider where I could find it.

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