Sprechen Sie deutsch?
The two older women sat side by side on a stone bench. They chatted cheerfully as they enjoyed the sunny afternoon by a pretty pond.
As I grew nearer I heard them more clearly. They were speaking German. As I walked by with Penne I greeted them with a smile and "guten tag".
That may have been a mistake, for they believed me to be a German speaker, and began a conversation with me. Or at least they tried to start a conversation. It took no more than 27 seconds for them to realise that I know next to nothing of their mother tongue.
They were very sweet about this.
One of them was as limited in her command of English as I was in German. The other woman was fluent in English.
They were still on the bench when I make my second circumnavigation of the pond. We chatted some more. I discovered that of them was from Berlin, the other from Frankfurt. Frankfurt (Oder), not Frankfurt am Main. (They were pleased to see that I know that there are two Frankfurts in Germany).
I began to tell them of my very first visit to Germany. The English speaker asked “were you in the war?” (Do I look that old!).
I protested my youth, and related that my very first visit to Germany had been in about 1969, when I visited Oberstdorf, in the Bavarian Alps. They were suitably impressed. The woman with limited English knew enough to respond “Oberstdorf is a pearl”.
Then Penne moved in on the act. She indicated in her firm but loving way that she needed attention. So she got the pats and caresses which are her due.
One of the women repeated over and over again (to my dog) “du bist gut”. Penne loved it. She evidently has a good understanding of the German language.
This happened yesterday afternoon (March 12th 2012), and it reminded me of another visit I made to Germany, back in 1984.
My friend Joe R, his friend John F and I had driven from London through France, Switzerland and Italy. After a visit to Munich we were making our way back to the coast and had reached Baden-Baden. It was a dark and stormy night.
We located an inexpensive Hotel (hard to do in Baden-Baden), and using my phrase book German asked if they had a room for three. The desk Clerk replied that they could offer a room for two and a single. So far, so good. They I enquired about price. I understood his reply.
Then beginning to speak at length, he realised that I understood not a word. He asked “do you speak English?”. “Oh yes” I said, with considerable enthusiasm. So we continued our conversation in English.
When it was through he asked me “Are you Norwegian?”. “No”, I replied, “why do you ask?” “Well” said he, “you speak German with a Norwegian accent”.