On the bus to class to-day, I was reading some Middle High German. A girl from my class saw me there, and stopped by to ask me whether I was in her presentation group. It turns out I am. We chatted for 10 minutes or so about meeting for the presentation, the likely make-up of the final exam, and our common difficulties in finding a uniting theme for the course. I finally mentioned that I hoped that I would be granted a little leeway on the translation portion of the exam, considering that I am not a native speaker of German. My assertion was met with surprise! The girl had thought my German was a little funny, but apparently not funny enough that I couldn't be from the Saarland or Switzerland or someplace. This despite the fact that, during conversation, I had bungled a couple of utterances badly enough that I just gave up on them, and the fact that I had forgotten the gender of the word "Referat" (presentation).

My point is: if you make enough progress in whatever language you are learning, you will sound like a really inarticulate native speaker, rather than an unusually articulate second-language speaker. Great.

1 comment:

  1. Haha kudos to you on your killer language skills. You make it seem as if being considered an exceptionally capable person is better than being considered an idiot. There seem to be many advantages to being thought of as an idiot (i.e. a German who can't speak German.) I have a case for you though--try being considered a second-language learner while speaking your native language. I was at a pierogi restaurant with my friend today. I ordered the food in Polish but spoke to my friend in English. A nice Australian couple asked me to take their photo, and after fluently asking them if they preferred the kitchen view or the terrace view, they rewarded me with a "Good English!" compliment. Gee, I wonder why!?
    -Elizabeth (don't be fooled by the "Cecilia"...it's really me)