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.

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 😉

    • things are always so much worse when you see them from michael’s point of view…

  2. I gave up studying long long ago (granted for different reasons)
    I’m now firmly of the “meet me half way” school of thought.
    Anyone who won’t even try in the other persons language is very rarely worth talking to.

    • 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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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