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My Husband and I have a Secret Language

17 May Posted by in Family Life, Language | 2 comments
My Husband and I have a Secret Language
 
When Kay and I first starting dating, he had read an article online giving a piece of advice to native English speakers and also Germans.

For the native English speakers: Speak slower. You don’t have to speak louder, but at least slow the tempo and annunciate better. This goes also for Americans who may run into foreigners in the US; be patient and speak slower. I’ve seen too many times Americans losing their patience.

The last time I flew back to Germany out of New York, I felt bad because the couple after us in line at the airline check-in counter didn’t understand what the airline employee was instructing them to do. I don’t know where the couple was from, but just as I was about to go assist, the airline employee huffed and puffed, stood up and came from around the counter to position the luggage the way she was instructing.

And I thought, “Sheesh. They obviously don’t understand. Have a little patience. Especially for your job, which entails serving international flights.”

For the Germans: Don’t worry if your English isn’t perfect. Americans don’t care. As long as they understand what you are trying to say, it doesn’t have to be perfect grammar.

And now that I have been here for over two years, sometimes I have to remind myself still to speak slower. Especially with the neighbors. Because I know them so well, I often forget that English is still a second language.

The joke around here is that I mumble a lot. Especially at night time or first thing in the morning. Kay has gotten used to it, but the neighbors haven’t.

I guess it is pretty bad because a guy at work used to call me, “Nuscheln,” which means to mumble in German.

Jokes don’t usually translate well between the two languages, but this particular co-worker still insisted upon telling me this joke and I’m sorry that now I am subjecting the readers to it too.

Question: What sits on the beach and talks all day and all night, but no one can understand?

Answer: A Shell

So my co-worker is laughing. I’m sitting there completely confused. He tries to explain, but I don’t get it. It takes another co-worker to step and explain that “Nuscheln” means to mumble, but the German word for a shell is, “Muscheln.”

“It’s a play on words. And it isn’t that funny in German either. Kind of corny,” the other co-worker said. “But that’s just his sense of humor.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have laughed because the next couple of minutes were spent with him telling more jokes and my other co-worker “translating.” I think what made me laugh most was the time in which it took to translate these play-on-words jokes.

My take-away from the jokes? Annunciate!

Other than my mumbling, I’ve started speaking a weird kind of English. It isn’t a mix of the two languages, but it’s somehow a shortened version of English.

In German you would say something like, “Wir gehen jetzt,” and translated word-for-word it means, “We go now.”

In English the proper way to say the above phrase is, “We are going now.” Because of the way the German language uses verbs, many times Kay will cut out words in English.

Unfortunately, I too have picked up this habit. And somehow I’ve learned how to cut out words while still making my point. Well, to Kay at least.

Last night, Kay asked me a question in front of all the guys while playing Skat.

And my answer was completely understandable to Kay. But apparently the combo of my mumbling and cutting out words left the neighbors bewildered.

After I walked away, two of the neighbors asked, “What did she say?”

Kay “translated” my mumbled English to German to which they replied, “Because it sounded like RRRrrrr rrrrr RRRRR. How can you understand that?”

I have to admit that sometimes I kind of do it on purpose when we have an audience because everyone doesn’t need to know what I’m saying to Kay all the time. I mean, that’s what Blogs are for.

And secretly, I’d like to admit that my dream is to one day be able to speak fluent German so that when Kay and I go to the US I can crack a joke about someone behind their back while being in front of them… just once I just want to. Isn’t that evil?

That is the thing Americans most fear when they hear people speaking in a foreign language. Are they talking about me? Are they saying something bad?

Ah, come on. It’s true, right? There was even a Seinfeld episode about it (you’d think I’d know better than to actually try it, huh?).

Unfortunately, I’m not quite proficient enough with my German skills and with this next trip to the US being to the South, I might just fit right in with my mumbled, cutting-out-words English.

Guess I better put in some extra hours learning German before I go because I highly doubt there are many people in the South speaking German. Yes, this just might be the time.

It’s pretty sad when the only reason I want to increase my German language skills is to use it for evil purposes, huh? Hey, whatever it takes to motivate me.

Besides, Kay and I need a secret language for the US too.



  1. Rick Litchfield05-19-12

    I tend follow blogs in frenzied spurts, especially yours. I will go days without reading anyone’s and then gorge myself on several. I hope it doesn’t feel like I am spamming you if I suddenly inundate with a succession of back to back comments.

    This one really hit close to home. My English is morphing into phrases such as “The Internet does down”…”Your phone rings”.

    I wish your husband the best of luck when he visits the south. I spent just over ten years in the panhandle of Florida and I don’t think I could translate the dialect effectively for my wife if we ever visited. Just how does “I’m fixing to go up yonder way with my youngins” translate in German, I wonder. :)
    Rick Litchfield recently posted..How curried sausage won the Cold War: A hyperbolic treatise on CurrywurstMy Profile

    • Mommy05-20-12

      Hey, it’s great to connect with fellow Expats, so nope, doesn’t feel at all like spam:)

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