Stop trying to speak to me in English!

115 posts in this topic

Posted

Grüße Gott everyone,

Just to preface: I am actually in Vienna Austria a the moment, but of course have been to Germany four times in the last year and hope to have the opportunity to move soon.

...So my German is not perfect, but I do dedicate a lot of time to study and understand much of what I hear and am careful when I speak. I have an accent when speak like most of you expats would but I do my best to cover that.

I am a twenty something, (hopefully) charming and kind woman and I keep having to deal with people here who switch to English once I begin speaking. Here in Vienna it's always women who seem to do this, whereas a man will let me keep speaking in German and respond so...

This has happened once or twice in Germany toor but has been an everyday occurance in Austria and really it's starting to grind my gears. I want to say to someone that they aren't being nice. Granted I am finding Austrians harder to understand but for goodness sake just slow down or repeat. Like some Bavarians I do find Austrians a bit more 'bitey.' :)

I know this all probably sounds silly to whinge about but it is a matter of pride for me---I've been working for diligently at my German language skills and being half Bavarian feel obliged to do my very best to learn my maternal language.

I did meet a student of German this summer, a Canadian, who felt this way too. In fact she seemed genuinely hurt that he attempts to speak and improve a the language she studied at university were so quickly discounted.

Your thoughts?

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Posted

If you´re in a sarcastic mood, you could always say: " They say English is an easy language. Why is yours so lousy? " :P

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Posted

Answer them back in such broken English that it is worse than your German. I am sure they don't mean it in a bad way to switch on you. They probably feel that their English is better than your German and so you would be more comfortable with English. I've never had this happen here by the way. I had it happen in Denmark a lot though when I was there some years ago.

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Posted

After four years and learning to speak fluently, I still get frustrated by some Germans switching immediately to English with me, or worse yet, mocking my accent by repeating exactly what I said with my accent. As if I don't know that I sound different from them. And they don't sound any more accent-free when they speak English! I never experienced such a thing in the States. Maybe it is because the majority of people there don't speak a foreign language fluently, but I have never heard someone directly mocking someone to their face because they have an accent. My coworker (a German) worked for a few months in Canada, and said no one ever made fun of her for mispronouncing something.

No matter how good your German is, you will never lose your accent. I could say a few words, and be immediately cut off midsentence with, "so, you're an American?" I just remain stubborn and continue speaking German...from my experience, they eventually switch back.

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Posted

Just stay cool, grace! It´s not important! I´ve been here 20 years. I´m English and speak fluent German with an accent....according to some people when they first meet me or I´m in a shop or whatever..I´m Dutch! " Was für ein Landsmann sind Sie? Sind Sie Holländer ?" ( Where are you from? Are you Dutch?" ). My reply (depending on my mood ): " schlimmer..bin Engländer " ( worse than that..I´m English ). It doesn´t matter.

The main thing: just be yourself and don´t worry if people joke about your accent.

You know what? My first ex-wife joked about my accent! Didn´t stop us falling in love! :D Actually, it was her mistake in English which led to it...she said ( before our first date! ).." let´s meet ON the post office" ..´nuff said!

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Posted

I found it very annoying back in '96 or '97 when I did my first study abroad and everyone would speak English to me. Thing is, when I was travelling and doing travelling stuff, then I was around people that of a necessity had to know pretty good English. I then just searched around for Kneipes and whatnot where people couldn't speak any English. When I spoke German in those locals then I would get offered drinks and sometimes food! Then 10 years ago when I was in my Prakticum I just told everyone that I was working with that I only wanted to speak German. Then I really found out how tough it was to learn. I almost changed my mind by the end of a week.

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Posted

It's something that aggravated the living hell out of me, I feel you. When I first moved to Germany it was always "Du bist in Deutschland, nicht Amerika! Deutsch lernen! Gott, eh!" I'll never forget an instance in which I had gone to a bank to open an account there and I asked the manager if he spoke English--he gave me a look like I was beggar looking for change and barked "NEIN!"

Then when I spent a full year in a German school (€3.000, paid for by the tax paying German), everyone decided thereafter to take every opportunity possible to practice their English with me. I even had a couple of people say, "Why do you keep speaking German? I speak fluent English, so it's easier that way!" An occassion that seriously had me fuming was when I was in a store and asked the clerk, "Bieten Sie hier eine Lieferdienst?" She gave me a look like she was balancing on eggshells and said "Sorry. English is very bad." I replied with, "Ja, klar, deswegen bin ich deutsch sprechen! Ich brauche eine Lieferung, weil ich kein fahrzeug habe" and she replied, "Please wait--Klara! Sprichst du fließend Englisch, oder? Er braucht hilfe!" I'll tell you the truth, if it wasn't for a great discount sale that was going on at the time, I would have turned around and walked out. Seriously.

But my suggestion is to continue speaking German. My wisecrack is also to say "Hör mal zu, du hast für mein Deutschkurs €3.000 ausbezahlt, willst du es wirklich verschwinden?" :P

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Posted

I started out in such small towns in the east (Saxony) where English was such a rarity it was a real sink or swim situation when it came to Deutsch. I learned it pretty quickly though in such a full immersion situation and by the time I got to bigger cities my German was fluent. Now I just consider speaking English a treat if the shopkeeper can keep up with me. Otherwise I just let them know that I'd rather just switch. An American friend of mine who has been living here in Germany for going on 20 years also pointed out to me that you'll at times get better service in the top-end shops in English than you would in German. I occasionally give it a test in places like KaDeWe, Karstadt, etc. in Berlin and that does seem to be the case. At any rate, conversation classes, small towns, pubs, working in German, and/or dating a local are probably a better way to practice and perfect your German skills than customer service situations.

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Posted

That is what I was thinking too! Poor Germans are wrong when they try to speak English and when they insist on speaking German. A lose-lose-situation.

Anyhow, with regards to what Grace was saying, I have to admit that I too make fun of accents - German accents though. My partner always say 'Gneibbe' which amuses me. He starts laughing when I say 'Feffer'. My mum couldn't get enough of me saying 'Gehirn' which I pronounced 'Gehörn'. I am not trying to defend rude and mean people. Just saying that sometimes mocking an accent is fun (for Germans). You can also make a whole room of Germans break into laughter when you use the wrong word! It happened to me in Berlin! I went to an Eisdiele and ordered 'Drei Bällchen'. The shop assistant started laughing...she couldn't contain herself. I had to laugh too because her laughter was really funny. Her hands were shaking while she was trying to put the 'Bällchen' on the cone. But I was like '???' until I understood that in Berlin you order 'Kugeln' not 'Bällchen'. Oh well, I can see that many people wouldn't think this funny but Germans are not famous for having great humor.

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Posted

You might feel better about it if you try to put yourself in their shoes. You're not the only one who had to dedicate a lot of time to study and understand a foreign language. In fact, they probably spent a lot more time and effort to learn English than you did to learn German. So naturally they want to make use of this hard-earned skill of theirs, just as much as you do. It's a matter of pride, also for them. Sometimes when people insist on speaking English, they're actually not trying to be nice (and it's best not to overestimate people's desire to be nice to you here) - they're saying "I'm not a moron". Also in many cases, they're just trying to get something done, and they don't have time to fool around.

You might get farther with something like: "Ah, Sie sprechen sehr gut Englisch! Ich muss wirklich an mein Deutsch arbeiten! Also, was können Sie mir sagen, über..."

In other words, acknowledge that their English is better than your German, and see if they're willing to speak to you in German anyway - it depends on the situation. Also it's nice to reciprocate, to switch back and forth. Just try to realize that them insisting on speaking English isn't any more rude than you insisting on speaking German.

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Posted

But my suggestion is to continue speaking German. My wisecrack is also to say "Hör mal zu, du hast für mein Deutschkurs €3.000 ausbezahlt, willst du es wirklich verschwinden?"

For instance the above makes no sense and so will hardly be perceived as a wisecrack, it would only get a puzzled frown. I would understand if the other person switches to English.

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Posted

Only correct response would've been: "Ok, then I'll see if that other bank wants to deal with my 2 million dollar trust fund"

He'll probably sigh with relief that he won't be given hell by his compliance department because of FATCA and stuff...

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Posted

sure I've told my own personal stories enough times on this forum so will skip to the end.

NativeFraulein [sic], we've all gone through it, many of us for years at a time. These are my pieces of advice for you:

1. Your German may not be as good as you think it is--yet. There is this weird divide between people who would confidently call themselves "fluent" and those, like grace.w, who, because they haven't done so well at getting rid of their accent have decided it is impossible. I think there is a middle ground. There will be a point where you may retain some of your accent but you speak so confidently that no one could mistakenly believe that speaking to you in English would make things go faster. It is not about how correctly you speak but how effortlessly it seems to come to you.

2. According to my private research, English-speaking accents (American, British, Downunder) in German are THEE most grating on the ear when thick and clumsy (not that one would know, most people with shitty accents only have them because they can't hear it). Honestly, I (native speaker of bland/nasal/general West Coast American English) would much rather put *myself* out of my misery than continue listening to somebody butcher the German language in their big awful English-language accent. I am sure it does not sound any more charming to a native German ear. But in truth, the accent is only part of it. It's getting all the cases and articles and word order wrong plus fumbling around for words and gesticulating wildly PLUS your big American accent. It's the stuff nightmares are made of. Is it shitty of me to say I feel embarrassed *for* them? Yes. Can I help it? No.

3. Further action is not required when somebody responds to your German in English. You know what's even more embarrassing than listening to somebody's crappy overlarge English accent? When that person refuses to speak to you in English, thus effectively pointing out what an asshole you're being for having been so patronizing to them in the first place. When I try to "put someone out of their misery" by speaking to them in English and they just keep on in German I feel about two inches tall. No further protests are necessary on their part, the message becomes loud and clear fairly quickly.

4. Despite all the bad news above, the longer you keep speaking German, the less often this will happen to you, unless you for some reason never improve. In non-social settings, I speak German to Brits/Americans unless their manipulation of the German language makes me want to stab myself in the ears with a stiletto. I speak German to everybody, and everybody speaks German to me, no one has attempted to pity-English at me since about 2008. The same will happen for you if you stay long enough.

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Posted

Amanda.. so far, I have found the waiters in Vienna to be the rudest so I'm not surprised at what happened to the Berliner.

With me, it's the same when I want to speak French and the French-speaker tries to speak English with me (no, really, it has happened). I just say "Oh, I'd really like to practise my French with you. Could you speak French?"

And then they beam to think that someone is really making an effort to practise their own language.

But I can understand the desire to speak the foreign language. REcently, I was stopped by a group of French speakers here in D'dorf and they asked me for directions in English. I responded in French - just because it was a great way to practise my French.

If you want them to revert to the language you want to use, then ask them, tell them that you want to learn their languages and would they please help you to do that.. to act as your teacher? That should flatter them and bring out the helpfulness.

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