Shame

Had an interesting conversation with one of my german co-workers today. Having had a brief conversation in German, he remarked that he didn’t know my german level. He probably assumed that i was completely incompetent (where as the reality is that i’m simply mostly incompetent…)

Which is all very interesting, but contrast starkly with my experience in japanese, where i was absolutely comfortable making a fool of myself. The expectation that a foreigner could never hold a conversation in japanese, even at the level of a five year old, made everything easy. Zero expectations.

In europe, where i nominally identify, it’s much harder to be european (english… yes, ok, but i’m trying…) and talking a european language like a five year old. That feels much harder.

Some of this is english being a lingua franca for europe these days (also true in japan but if i’m a five year old in japanese…), but mostly it’s not wanting to make a fool of myself relative to my “native” language ability. It’s really something i want to get over – it’s the only way i’ll increase the rate that i’m picking up german.

Too old for all this.

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10 thoughts on “Shame

  1. I doubt in Japan english is the lingua franca. Rather that they speak on a level of a five year old 🙂

    At least in german they wont comment who good you are at using your cutlery 😉

    • in japan i can see that attitude emerging… the problem here is that there are all sorts of interesting people who gave up on school (for a profession) that didn’t bother with english, and i’d still like to be able to talk to them!

  2. I have a similar fear. Like, I can pick my way through French, but I’m utterly afraid to actually speak French in front of a proper French speaker because it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as my English.

    At the moment I’m trying to learn German. It’s a lot easier than I was expecting, but I won’t be truly comfortable until I know embarrassing hip youth slang and swears.

  3. Its just cause you are english. Europeans have zero expectations when they know you arent english. When i was in france everyone would get pissy at me when i wouldnt speak perfect french but once they learnt i was actually from Nuu Zulland they were like hey i dont even fucking know where that is of course you cant speak french!

    • maybe i should start working on my NZ accent… but somehow i suspect the same rules don’t apply here. germans are as defined by their language (and place) as other europeans.

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