Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ich sprechen Deutsch

I can speak German. Well, kinda. I'm not even sure that I spelled that title correctly. But I'm not going to proofread any of my German - that wouldn't be an accurate depiction of how well I learned it.

Somebody mentioned on Facebook that they are curious as to how well I learned the language. I had been trying to learn it (crash-course style) the last few months before we left. I tried using the Tell Me More! program, which was available to use online free through a local library. It seemed like a neat program, but I felt like I was going through learning lots of vocab without really understanding any grammar. It's supposed to be similar to the Rosetta Stone, but I haven't tried that, so I can't compare.

A couple of days before leaving, I frantically tried to learn some last-minute stuff. I watched a bunch of youtube videos aimed at teaching german called Learn German with SpeedyConKiwi. For example, here is one teaching some basic conversational stuff. One of my favorite ones, which I thought was quite useful, was her Pronunciation Guide. Unfortunately, when I was explaining some of it to my sister Erin (who is fluent in German), I apparently mis-remembered it and told her some things that were not accurate. So she wasn't impressed with the videos, but looking back at it now, I think that the video was right and I was just not a good student. :) (Check it out Erin, and tell me what your impression is now.) I also really liked this video, and the song was in my head lots while in Germany!

I also signed up for LiveMocha, which is great. You create an account and fill in details regarding what languages you speak and what languages you are learning. Then, you are part of a community of people who are helping each other learn languages. There are lessons, which I've enjoyed, and when you do some of the writing and speaking "homework", then you can have them be reviewed by people who are fluent or experts in your target language. You can also chat with people who speak the language.

Anyways, I had lots of great resources, but I didn't really start in enough time. I could say some very basic things, but never really had much of a conversation in German.

Here's some of my best work (and I am disregarding the umlat for ease of typing):
Die Frau ist klein und dunn. = The woman is short and thin.
Der Mann ist alt und arm. = The man is old and rich.
Die Madchen ist jung und dick. = The girl is young and fat.
Der Junge ist gross. = The boy is tall.

Really impressive, no? Well, while in Germany, I played Guess Who? with Katy. You remember that game, don't you? I had it when I was a kid. So... I asked Katy to play it with me IN GERMAN! So, I learned how to say things like:
Hat die Frau brille? = Does the woman have glasses?
Hat der Mann auchen grun? = Does the man have green eyes?

While in Germany, I logged in to LiveMocha a couple of times and learned a few more important sentences:
Die Haus ist rot. = The house is red.
Der Auto ist schwartz. = The car is black.
Das ist gelben. = This is yellow.

Unfortunately, I found no opportunity to embark in a real conversation with a German person using my limited vocabulary. I did say "Ein stille wasser, bitte" a number of times (which means: "uncarbonated water, please".)

I was able to use the words for "left" and "right" a few times while we were going places --> "links" and "recht". That was exciting.

But usually, my conversations with Germans went like this:
Them: Hallo, blah blah blah blah.
Me (apologetically): Ich sprechen Englisch.
Them: blah blah blah blah
Me: Englisch??

In one instance like this, a woman later told the rest of the family that I didn't remember her from before. I DID recognize her! I just couldn't say anything of value!

I also found that when my brain was trying to tell my mouth to speak in German, my mouth only got the message that it should use a foreign language, so Spanish would come spilling out. That wasn't very helpful. Although, with strangers, it would probably be better so that I can pretend I'm a Spaniard rather than an American. ;)

Jacob learned a bit too. He can proudly tell you "Hallo" and even "Nein!" (which means "no")

Perhaps my title should've been Ich sprechen keine Deutch... :(


  1. A minor correction: like many languages, German verbs take different endings depending on the subject of the sentence. When the subject is "I" (ich), then the ending is usually -e, added to the verb stem. For the verb "sprechen" (to speak) the stem is "sprech", so "I speak German" would be "Ich spreche Deutsch".

    It's a small matter, especially when speaking out loud because many people swallow the endings anyway, blurring the lines. "Ich sprechen" is kind of similar to saying "I be hungry" vs. "I am hungry": everyone knows what you mean, it just sounds slightly off.

    Here's a site I found helpful for brushing up on my elementary German before I had to take a collegiate course. It's operated by Deutsche Welle, which is the government-sponsored media channel (like the BBC). www.dw-world.de

    You may need to find the button to put the site into English the first time, but over in the left-hand menu, there's a heading for "German Courses". They even offer clearly-spoken (though not necessarily easy) summaries of top news stories, complete with definitions of atypical words.

  2. I know what you mean about the brain to mouth thing. The first time we went to Italy I was like that. I had dreams at night where I was trying to translate everything. Your brain really wants to communicate and say the words. i can only imagine it is what a baby feels like. How frustrating!

  3. Here's some video proof!