Achtung baby, I will learn to speak German in 2022


I decided that 2022 would be the year when I would learn valuable skills. When I told my wife about my new educational plot, she recalled my previous attempts at self-improvement. She reminded me that I had tried and failed to learn to play the piano, juggle and knit a sweater. I proudly exclaimed last January that they would be just a few of my accomplishments in 2021. Plus, growing my veggies, brewing my beer, and learning to fly a plane (that was a pretty big daydream and good too expensive). However, her favorite was: “Oh, you also said you would learn German.”

I took German at school for two weeks in 1st grade, but dropped out. The only thing I learned was to count to 20 and I was bad at languages. I always felt that I could speak foreign languages, mainly because of the Eurovision Song Contest. Ireland just couldn’t stop winning Eurovision in the 80s and 90s. We took that for granted, and that’s probably the only reason I can count to 12 in French. While playing Irish music in Germany, I realized that the only phrases I would need were “Ein Bier bitte” and “Noch ein Bier, bitte” because most Germans have excellent English.

Lorna and I decided very early in our relationship, BC (Before Children), that we would go to Berlin for the weekend. She is always on high alert when we go to different countries. I feel that I have an ear for languages ​​and that I can grasp words and meanings. On the other hand, his opinion is usually: “Bernard, if you even try to speak their language, I’ll leave you here on your own.” However, at this point, we were at the start of our relationship.

When we landed in Dublin after our break, we were waiting for a cab. We were behind a group of German ladies who were on vacation in town. I took up a sentence I learned while waiting for the tables. “Guten Abend, meine Damen, ich nehme an, Sie sind in Ihrem Hennen – Abend. Ich will, dass du dich auf deinem besten Verhalten aufhältst.” (Translation: “Good evening ladies, I guess you’re having your bachelorette party. I want you to behave the best.”)
They started to laugh.

Lorna was very impressed. “I didn’t know you could speak German.

I should have said frankly that he was the only German I knew, but instead I said to him: “Yes, I speak German fairly well. She replied, “Why didn’t you talk about it over the weekend?” “

It was an excellent point. Why didn’t I speak German while I was in Germany? “Ah, I just didn’t want you to feel left out of conversations, and I’m a little rusty.” At the time, she really liked me, so she said, “Well, they seemed to know what you were saying, and that sounded good to me.”

Bernard O’Shea

It would have been okay if one of the German women hadn’t turned around and asked: “Wie lange dauert es, amen Taxi zu bekommen?”

All I understood was the word “taxi”. I panicked. So, I played. “Oh, zwanzig minuten.”

There was a pause. I thought I would be discovered. They just smiled and said, “Danke”. I felt a surge of relief. It was like a reversal of the famous scene from “The Great Escape” when the Germans catch Richard Attenborough and Gordon Jackson as they were getting on a bus. The soldier says “Good luck” and Gordon responds “Thank you,” thus giving up the game.

There were only two couples in front of them and I counted there were six, so they would need a minivan for six, or two taxis. I started to think ahead just in case. I would need to know German for “two taxis”. It was simple: “zwei taxi”. I was stuck on a minivan, however. I knew “Volk” was “people” from “Volkswagen”, but what is “carrier” in German?

If the worst were to happen, I would just say “Sechs Wagen”. Then I started to think it looked like a “sex car”. I started to pray. “Dear Jesus, don’t make me say ‘wagon sex’ out loud in a queue of taxis at Dublin Airport.”

Then one of them asked: “Ist es normalerweise so beschäftigt? I knew she said “normal” and the penultimate word was “so” something – I’m betting on “busy” – but I had no idea what else. So, I just did my best and said “Ja” with confidence. Again, it seemed to work.

I was fine until she answered, “Ist es teuer?” I knew she had said, “Is this something? So I went with “Ja” again.

And then my “good luck” moment arrived. (Again, you must be familiar with The Great Escape to get this reference.) The girl said: “Können Sie per Kreditkarte bezahlen oder müssen Sie per Bargeld bezahlen? I later found out that meant “Can you pay by credit card or does it have to be cash?” To which I replied, “Ja.”

The game was over. The German ladies knew I didn’t speak German. Lorna knew I didn’t speak German. Everyone in the queue for a taxi knew I didn’t speak German. Then, to top it off, one of them turned to Lorna and asked her in perfect English, “Can you pay by credit card or do they only take cash?” It’s one thing to be embarrassed and to be able to leave, but I was stuck in my stupid shame trap for the next 45 minutes. I could see them constantly laughing at themselves and looking at me.

So watch out for 2022, or should I say Achtung 2022 because I’m going to screw up Deutsche Sprache. I will count in 2023 with “Zehn, neun, acht, sieben …”. I will wear a sweater that I have knitted myself. Playing Auld Lang Syne on the piano while eating a plate of my vegetables from the garden. With a bit of luck.


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