Fooling the natives

Still an Ami

Long-time readers of Anthonyganzer.com might remember a post from 2008, in which I was so proud to be able to use my beginner German skills to interact at a German food store in Phoenix.  The victory in that day was not that I spoke German well, rather that I survived even a few sentences in a foreign language.  I would go on to have proper training, and focus myself more fully on actually learning the language and not just phrases from a guide book, and as one’s skills progress so do one’s goals.

For a long time my goal has been to speak German well-enough so that a native speaker doesn’t immediately think I am a native English-speaker.  A Northern German might think I am Bavarian, a Bavarian might think I am Austrian, and Austrian might think I am Swiss, a Swiss might think I am German.  To me, it doesn’t matter how wrong the guess is, so long as the native German-speaker doesn’t say “American” or “British” when guessing where I am from.  Why?  Well, it is a badge of honor to speak well-enough to even superficially fool a native speaker, and I find interactions with people are a little less mired in stereotypes or assumptions when people don’t think you are from a superpower across the pond.

So when a line cook who prides himself on identifying accents was stumped, and his mouth dropped to the floor when I told him where I am from, my day became a lot better.

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German Language and Identity (auf Deutsch)

Darnell

Language is always a sticking point in the German immigration debate.  Many times politicians say immigrants need to learn better German, to fully integrate.  But not all foreigners are told this.  Entertainers, for example, seem to have a special status in German society, and imperfections are part of the charm.  This feature was produced in German for Westdeutscher Rundfunk.  Translation provided by Katie Ganzer.

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