Wednesday, November 16, 2011

German Immersion

Looking up toward the Heidelberg Castle

Unlike many other countries I've visited in the past few years, Germany presents itself to the world auf Deutsch. The billboards and signs are not in English. Neither are television programs, airport announcements, or labels. There may be a couple of English menus in restaurants, but the Germans do not find it necessary to make things bilingual. When in Germany, sprechen Sie Deutsch.

This could be a little intimidating if you don't speak German. Luckily, I do. Or did. I took four years of German in high school and traveled to Germany the summer of my sophomore year as an exchange student. I was pretty sure that I would recognize enough words on my trip here to get by. Besides, most of the people I've met here do speak English, though I've found that they typically only speak English to the Americans and British and continue speaking German amongst themselves even when English-speakers are involved in the conversation.

I think of this as German immersion, and it has worked. I am becoming more and more fluent in German each day and am thrilled by this turn of events.

Two nights ago I flipped through the television channels and found "Glee" and "King of Queens." They were dubbed in German, but I've seen the episodes and easily followed along. (I did find it interesting that all the songs the Glee kids performed were in English, and Doug's name was changed to something else on King of Queens. Not to mention the fact that a Brooklyn accent doesn't really come across in German.)  I picked up a few words here and there.

Then last night I flipped to a channel and found a Piper Perabo movie on. It's not one I've ever seen, but it looked like a romantic comedy, so I decided to watch it while I worked and found that I understood most of it. I was thrilled and felt quite accomplished.

This morning I turned on the television and flipped through a few channels as I got dressed and then realized that it took me a moment to realize that when I heard a few English words, they were English. I found that amusing. Then I went to the training course that I'm in Germany for. As I went through the hallways, a German stranger came up to me and asked me a question in German and I was able to answer her back. Ja wohl!

I still have another week in Germany and am hoping that I become more fluent as the days progress and I continue to be immersed in German. It truly is the way to learn a language. Well, that and four years of German classes beforehand.


  1. Great picture. It's gorgeous. I love German architecture and culture. Probably because a lot of my heritage is German and learning about their culture feels like discovering things about myself and my history.

    I want to travel there someday. But I can count on my hands the number of words I know in German. So I'm sure I'll find the language barrier rough.

  2. Yay immersion! I know the feeling -- I had similar moments when I lived in Spain for a summer. It was fantastic, and I keep hoping Andy will get an international assignment where I can immerse myself in Spanish or Chinese, hehe.