Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Speaking another language can be daunting. Even if you have studied it in school for a few years, it takes being immersed in the new language to really get a feel for it.

We have had three exchange students over the years. The first was a young lady from Brazil whose native tongue was Portuguese. When she arrived at our home, much of our communication was pointing at things. Her English was limited and we knew no Portuguese. Signing up for classes, she decided to take Spanish but discovered that the two languages were so similar that she dropped it for another elective.

My husband and I with Steffi while visiting Munich.

Our other two exchange students were both German. Steffi was from Heborn, north of Frankfort. Sebastian was from a small town in Bavaria near Stuttgart. Both had a better grasp of English than our Brazilian girl. Steffi had been to the states before with her parents. Sebastian was also well travelled and had recently returned from a family trip to Egypt before moving to Idaho. I am afraid we did not tip his exoctic scale here.

Between hosting our two exchange students, we travelled to Germany. We stayed with Steffi’s family and they graciously became our German tour guides. Keep in mind, no one in my family speaks German. I took it in high school and knew a few phrases that trickled down through the family tree but certainly not fluent.

Birnau on the Bodensee

As part of our trip with the Kuhlmann’s, we stopped at a Catholic Church at Birnau on the Bodensee. My teenage son heard, “We’re going to Beer now.” His reply was “Are we making a morning beer stop already?”.
Another laugh was when we were approaching Munich. The German signs of course announced us approaching München. Since it was nearing noon, John piped up with, “Great. We are going lunchen in munchen!”

Being of German descent, we blended in well and sometimes were mistaken as natives. Some Japanese tourists asked to take pictures of us in Heidelberg and some students from a visiting LA high school choir told John he spoke ‘really good English’. When John tried to tell them that we were from Idaho, the California kids did not know where that was. Good grief. 

Maybe part of our language barrier is not simply a language issue.

3 thoughts on “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

  1. Terri, I live just outside of Peoria, IL and Peoria’s Partnerstadt is Friedrichshafen am Bodensee, very near Birnau.  Birnau: Birn = Pear, and Au = loosely a verdant plateau.  Naturally the area is a large producer of pears (Birne) and of the clear brandies distilled from them: Williams Birne made from the Williams Christ pear variety, or Obstler, a mix of apple and pear brandies, both favorites of mine.  Many farmers in this area raise fruit, and are permitted to distill a quantity of brandy tax-free.  A country drive in the area, with a stop or two at a random farm can yield some real bargains on this local product.  It was nice to see your photos of an area with which I have some familiarity and have visited a few times. The same goes for Heidelberg and Muenchen, but these two cities are a bit more well-known tourist destinations.  Your articles nearly always stimulate fond memories in me. vielen DankPaul


    1. Thank you for the kind words. I’d appreciate you sharing the blog because I am trying to build a following before a book launch about German immigrants in the 1850s. I will try to continue to entertain and I am open to guest posts too.


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