Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Berlin Diaries: Language Divide

The Berlin Diaries: Language Divide

Charming Canadian, Irish Boy and I are seated in a restaurant on Unter Den Linden (yes, I shall be using German names in a bid to sound glamorous until it gets really, really annoying), having decreed that if we do not eat soon then we will be drawing straws for who will be eaten first. Given that we have been in Berlin for all of three hours this is the first real language barrier test. I did two lessons of German back when I was 11 and had to choose if I was going to study German, French or Urdu (yes, really; remember I went to an all girls school in Leeds). I undoubtedly had romantic notions of France and predictably made that choice. Which is not exactly much help currently. The only thing I can remember from that original German class is how to count to three. Which may or may not come in useful.

Unnaturally Blonde Waiter comes over to us, handing out menus. There is an automatic scuffle for the one Phrasebook we have between us. It turns out that German would be quite distinct from either French or English, the only two languages I am (reasonably) capable of decoding a menu in.

Unnaturally Blonde Waiter comes back. At least there is some form here, clearly he is going to ask us what we would like to drink. Not too difficult.

Charming Canadian is already prepared: "Wasser".

I am immediately impressed that he knows the word for water without prompting.

Clearly he has been far too convincing, though, as Unnaturally Blonde Waiter rattles off a question that I suspect none of us understand.

There's a half second of a pause.

"Oui" Charming Canadian says.

Now, I understand that. It not being German and everything.

Irish Boy and I order drinks, resorting to English and pointing rather than French.

Once Unnaturally Blonde Waiter has gone Charming Canadian puts his head in his hands.

"It just came out!"

And though I should not throw stones in cases like this I cannot help but laugh.

Unnaturally Blonde Waiter comes back with our drinks and then proffers another menu.

"This might help you".

I manage "Danke" as places the menu in front of me, silently glad that we're not going to have to decode German with only a visual phrasebook for company.

It is only when I glance down at the menu that I realise there might be another problem.

We have been given the menu in French. And to think we had assumed that at some point we would be mistaken for being American because of Charming Canadian's accent.

"He thinks we're French because of you!" I exclaim.

There is nothing else to do, Charming Canadian puts his head back into his hands.

It looks like those five years of French might come in useful after all.

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