Texan-German Cultural Exchange

by  Kathrin Verhoefe

It’s been too long since I updated you on my linguistic travels and travails, but I guess that’s what a whirlwind romance does. Yes, my Texan language coach is now most definitely my boyfriend. Now comes his first ordeal – a visit from my most terrifying father. (He’s a mensch, really, a darling, but I like to scare the Texan). And in preparation, I’ve been teaching him a little German.

German is known for being a lilting, romantic, soft, musical language. Oh wait, hang on, that’s French. German is known for being hard, guttural, and containing endlessly long and complicated words. So it’s only natural that the Texan was experiencing a little angst when we started. He seemed to consider the whole thing rather a schlepp. We kept delaying, until with a week to go, we needed a blitzkrieg operation. We sat in his kitsch kitchen, drinking ersatz coffee, and I tried to enthuse him.

“When my parents come here on their fahrt,” I begin, and he collapses into giggles. “It means JOURNEY,” I sigh. Another approach is clearly needed. “Listen, you like it when I say bratwurst, don’t you?” The giggles stop.

I decide to make things easy, and tell him we’re going to vorglühen – have a few drinks to get in a better mood. I told him that if he stopped behaving like a hasenhirn (idiot) then he might get to poppen me later. I’m not translating that here…

“A lot of words you already know are German,” I say in my best teacher voice, “like muesli”.

“I hate muesli.”

“Lager?”

lager

“Yeah, better.”

“Doppelganger”

“Do your parents look identical? Otherwise how is that going to help me?”

He was right. Despite having learned language from people so many times, I was crap at teaching it. I hastily taught him a few greetings, and a few compliments, and left it at that.

Sadly, the Texan experienced a rush of guilt, and later that night he asked my brother, on Skype, to teach him a few more German words and phrases, so that he could impress my parents AND surprise me, thus earning himself brownie points. A foolproof plan, apart from the fool in the middle of it. My brother. My brother is eine extrawurst – an extra sausage, he doesn’t follow the rules of normal society.

Of course I had no idea of this impending disaster until my parents walked in, and the Texan proudly told her that she smelt of Nuttendiesel (overpowering perfume) which schmeckt wie hund (tastes like dog). To give it its nicest possible translation. But it was five minutes later, when he told my father that he was so excited to meet him, he was paras schieben (shitting himself) that I decided to intervene. By which I mean grab the Texan and yell. “That’s it! You speaking German is now strictly verboten!”

The whole story emerged later that night, with my brother nearly hysterical with laughter at the misfortune of the Texan…I’m sure there’s a word for that, I can’t quite think of one. Meanwhile the Texan was convinced things were kaput between us. But luckily, the whole situation was saved by that most German of cure alls: schnapps. By the next day we were all too hungover to hold grudges. So I told him from now on there’s just one German phrase he should stick to: Ich verstehe Bahnhof. It translates as “I understand train station”, but, as any German will tell you, it means “I understand nothing”.

 

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5 Comments to “Texan-German Cultural Exchange”

  1. Hilarious!!!

  2. Your poor boyfriends!

  3. Oops, just the one boyfriend, sorry!

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