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Funny thing w/Germans and English (archive)

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Posted by Chris on August 18, 2000 at 11:58:57:

In Reply to: Yes, pretty much everyone speaks some English posted by Nicole Hamilton on August 18, 2000 at 11:49:45:

When we were there for our Euro delivery in June/July, we made an interesting discovery. If somebody says that don't speak English (in German of course), they probably will understand a mixture of English and pointing. If they say they speak "a little bit" of English, they are really fluent, but not comfortable. If they say yes, they speak it so well, it is hard to hear an accent. Usually, the latter group also understand American colloquialisms.

That being said, we did find that when we tried to speak our broken German, we got a pretty good response.

Almost all tourist places speak English. Our fun was that we spent most of the time in a small Alpine village. Not many English speakers there (except our neighbor who tried real hard!).


I assume most of your conversations took place in English?

I speak only a little college French and zero German. I'd say it's quite reasonable to get by only on English, though you will find you'll pick up a little of the local language just purely from the exposure. You'll definitely know what an Ausfart is, for example, and no, you don't need to hold your nose.

There really were only a couple times when I could not get by only in English. Once was in a little restaurant between Salzburg and Vienna. There, we ended up just pointing at some things on the menu. We didn't know what they were, but figured we'd take one of each. (Turned out it was good. :)

Then, as we drove to Paris, I tried finding a Michelin guide to get prices on hotels, since that wasn't listed in the navigation system for France. Though I kept trying at every rest stop's newstand, it just wasn't to be had in English, only French. But as I said, I do understand some French and the books are deliberately written in easy vocabulary, so that turned out to be no big deal.

My impression generally was that more people tend to know English in the German-speaking parts of Europe than in France. For example, the people at BMW or Harmes spoke flawless English.

But even France didn't seem as bad as it did the last time I was there some years ago when it seemed that people would flat refuse to have anything to do with you if you didn't speak not merely French, but good French.

This time, the French seemed easier to get along with and much more willing to use English -- especially if you made even a stumbling attempt (as all of mine were :) at French.

But I have to tell you a little story: We went to the top of the Tour Eiffel, where my younger boy got a little model of the structure. Right after that, we walked to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Later in the day, he realized he'd left his model there on the table, so had to walk all the way back to retrieve it.

My kids were very impressed -- and it made my day :) -- that I was able to ask if they'd found the thing and get it back all in French.


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