What You Talkin’ ‘Bout, Dieter?

16 May

Yesterday I decided to do some lap swimming at the gym. I’m crazy like that. Sometimes when I pay for a gym membership I actually use the sucker. Or I at least allow the membership to help me burn calories through guilt and mental exhaustion. Anyway, in the pool yesterday I was doing my version of staying afloat and in the next lane two twenty somethings were doing their version of aquatic lambada. But I got the drop on them!

Some of the available Do's & Don'ts from NetGlobers iPhone app

 

You see while these two lovebirds were spending time together they were talking loudly. And in German, of all things. And I heard e v e r y t h i n g. Oh, yes. I was not just pretending to flail about in the water, I was listening to you two talk. So there! How do you feel now, little smoochies? Wait. What did you say? Did I understand what you were saying?  Well… define “understand”.  Okay, yeah.  I didn’t.  It was complete gobbledy gook to me.  But I could have understood you.  What do you think of that, my pretties?  Not much.  Touché.

And that (finally) brings me to today’s topic: foreign tongues.  Oops, I should probably rephrase that given my intro.  Let’s say foreign languages.  I have been kidding myself when I believe that by watching foreign movies on Netflix or learning how to say a few words that I would have clue one on what is being said.  The Mister and I both took French classes when we were in high school.  We’ll probably be able to pronounce things well enough that we don’t maim ears of innocent passersby.  But even in that language we’d still be lost without translation.  And when it comes to Italian and German we are going to have to resort to hand gestures and hope that we aren’t offending anyone.

A screen shot from one of the Do's & Don'ts videos.

So what is the solution to this problem?  Well, even though we’re not going on our trip until next spring, I’m pretty sure that I don’t have time to become fluent in three languages.  That is unless the Mister creates a montage for me.  If I’ve learned anything from movies, it’s that you can become really wonderful at anything given the proper song and some editing.  Barring that option, I’m probably out of luck.

Thus far I’ve done two very simple things.  Let me put more emphasis on simple.  Like putting on Chapstick simple or saying “yes” to fudge brownies simple.  In other words, you probably already thought up these options just waiting for me to get to the point.  The first thing I’ve done is to buy a phrase book.  I’ve been glancing at it occasionally and terrorizing the Mister with attempts to practice… usually when we are in a restaurant and everyone is staring.  I am hoping that repeated exposure to key phrases will help with my comprehension.  The phrase book I bought has Italian, German and French in it and is, naturally, by Rick Steves.  I don’t do much without the guy, do I?  In fact, he’s writing this blog right now. (waves)

The other thing I’ve done is to download a free app for the iPhone called Dos & Don’ts from NetGlobers.  It provides quick links to videos (which are also available on YouTube) about gestures that you should or should not use and then groups them by country.  If you like when I point out the obvious then I’ll mention that the pictures in today’s post are from this app.  Also, you smell great today.  Is that new?

I’m hoping that this little bit of effort and a whole lot of dumb luck sees us through our trips.  We’ll still have our iPhones to look up key things.  We also know that most Europeans can speak more than one language (the Dutch typically know four or five and can speak them fluently).  They may take pity on us.  You know, while we take pity on them for not having ice cubes.

Last time I was in Europe my only real communication challenge came on my first day.  My sister’s host family included one chatty little girl who was attempting to talk to me as I was attempting to sleep.  I used my limited German and some remembered German lyrics to “Silent Night” to communicate that I was an idiot.  She took the cue and left me in peace.  Maybe I’m overlooking something.  Should I be boning up on Christmas songs and show tunes in other languages so I can confuse children?

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