Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Don't be a Douchebag.

Ok so I need to write something on a slightly serious note - if only to get my feelings out so that I can get back to studying.

I study in Germany, and whilst it is difficult to keep up sometimes and incredibly frustrating that I can't express myself as succinctly as I would be able to in English, I still manage. But I can't describe the frustration I feel when people tell me how "cute" my German is - as if I were a 7 year-old at a dance recital or something - or worse, they repeat what I said, trying to copy my accent. I specifically have problems pronouncing 'R' and I feel a certain sense of shame when I have to repeat a word several times before anyone seems to understand what I am trying to say. I know that no one means to offend me and that it is really just my pride getting to me, but none the less I have this to say:

I fully believe that foreigners should learn the language of any country they choose to move to. It's a sign of respect and will also make their lives a lot easier. But by the same token, their host nation needs to respect how difficult it is to learn a new language, how terrible it is to have to wonder if the person you are talking to is understanding anything you are saying or how frustrating it is to know you're making mistakes all over the place, but knowing you have to bash through anyway in the hope of achieving fluidity if not complete fluency. Native speakers of all languages (I'm not singling Germans or English-speakers out here) need to put themselves in the foreigner's shoes - which I can assume most people should be able to do - after all, Europeans are forced to learn English at school and we in Australia are also required to learn a foreign language. I'm not saying that you can't have a giggle if someone asks for "Nasenpapier" because they don't know the word for tissue, or when they directly translate something which has a completely different connotation/meaning in your language ('gib mir Fuenf' is high five in German - not 'I need another five minutes'), but consider how embarrassed and uncomfortable they are probably feeling and how much effort they are going to in order to learn your language.

I still feel embarrassed every time that I have to speak German, it certainly doesn't stop me speaking it, or from learning other languages, but it does make my pride scream for mercy. I don't intend for you to read this as a 'Giorgia's pride got hurt and now she's ranting' kind of thing, but by all means take it as that if you will. To be honest, I think my pride has well and truly been swallowed by now, but if nothing else just do me a favour - think before you call anyone cute.

Hope all is well.