Friday, September 23, 2011

Sprichst du Deutsche?

La Casa de Avila
When I arrived in Peru I knew very little Spanish. I knew the basics: hola, adios, yo quiero taco bell, etc. I communicated with taxi drivers by pointing out my intended destination in the Lonely Planet guide book. Communication was sub-par and loneliness ensued until those glorious days in Arequipa when I participated in a 1.5-week Spanish immersion program with La Casa de Avila. Then, poof! Three years of high school Spanish lessons flooded back and I could speak! It’s like when Ariel got her voice back and could finally express her love to Prince Eric.

P.S. I LOVE The Little Mermaid.

Learning a new language opens the door to a wider range of experiences both at home and away. Not only can I tell the spanish-speaking exterminator where the dead rats are (hay una rata muerta en la cocina), I can also fake people out and pretend I’m from a different country. This is great way to avoid awkward situations. Commit a faux pas? Why, simply string a couple sentences together about how you don’t speak English or understand the local customs! Unfortunately, this trick doesn’t work so well with Spanish in California since the majority of people have a basic understanding of the language. That is why I pretend to be German.

I enrolled in Deutsche 1 at the local junior college in July while I was spending an immense amount of time with The Austrian. Why of course I would want to learn his mother-tongue! Now it seems ridiculous to have chosen German, a language that very few people in my country speak, that is until last night. I met up with some friends at the local brewery. It was late in the evening and we’d been enjoying the warm summer night on the patio, sipping beers and laughing loudly. The group of guys next to us got up to leave, but one lagged behind and announced to the others, “Hey, wait up! I need to tell this girl she is beautiful before we leave!”, and then he approached ME. He said hello. Unsure about how to handle the situation, with a big smile I responded with, “Guten Abend! Wie geht’s? Sprichst du Deutsche?” Flabbergasted, he mumbled something about Nuremberg and only speaking a little German and ran off. “Auf Wiederhesen!” I called waving goodbye to him and the awkward situation that I’d dodged.

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