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.
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.
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.