Humor of Sound of German is adapted from ‘Easy, Tiger’, a humorous article by David Sedaris from the New Yorker magazine of July 11, 2011.
I started preparing for a trip to Germany.
The first time I went, in 1999, I couldn’t bring myself to say so much as “Guten Morgen”.
The sounds felt false coming out of my mouth, so instead I spent my time speaking English apologetically.
Not that the apologies were needed.
In Paris, yes, but in Berlin people’s attitude is ‘Thank you for allowing me to practice my perfect English.’
And I do mean perfect. “Are you from Minnesota?” I kept asking.
In the beginning I was put off by the harshness of German.
Someone would order a piece of cake and it sounded as if it were an actual order, like
“Cut the cake and lie face down in that ditch between the cobbler and the little girl.”
I guess this comes from watching too many Second World War movies.
I’ve made at least ten trips by now, and have gone from one end of the country to the other.
People taught me all sorts of words, but the only ones that stuck were
‘Kaiserschnitt’, which means Cesarean section, and
‘Lebensabschnittspartner’. This doesn’t translate to ‘lover’ or ‘life partner’ but rather to ‘the person I am with today’, the implication being that things change, and you are keeping yourself open.
So I downloaded all thirty lessons of Pimsleur German.
I’ve added a second audio program, one by a man named Michel Thomas.
Walking through the grocery store with Pimsleur UND Thomas on my iPOD, I picture myself pulling up to my Munich hotel with my friend Ulrike, who’s only ever known me to say [in German] “Cesarean section” and ‘the person I am with until someone better comes along”.
“Bleiben wir hier heute Abend?” I plan to say.
“Wieviele Nächte? Zwei? Das ist teuer, nicht wahr?”
She’s a wonderful woman, Ulrike, and if that’s all I get out of this—seeing the shock register on her face as I natter on—it’ll be well worth my month of study.