Proof I Don’t Sprechen Deutch, But I Try. God, Do I Try. ;-)

We were in Austria, visiting my mom’s cousin.  She wasn’t home, but she’d left the key with a neighbor in another building.

“You go get it,” my mom said, and stood sentinel by the door to the apartment building, in case someone came in or out, giving her access. Now, my mom does understand some German.  I, of course, do not.  So mayhap it wasn’t the wisest division of labor, but I trundled myself off anyway to find the neighbor in her building.

Ever the intrepid traveler with no fear of tackling conversation, somehow under the illusion that I must have the necessary tools for all communication, I pressed the elevator button and scrambled in my mind’s flotsam and jetsam of senseless words to find something German in there.

By the time the doors opened on her floor, I’d picked out some shiny and rarely used gems in my international lexicon.  I had it!

Now, my cousin’s last name is Junger.  Which, believe it or not, is relevant.  For this was my sentence, my first in German:

“Ich bin kleine Junger. Schlussel–nichts!”  After which I planned to shrug expressively.

In my mind, you see, the above sentence, cobbled together from a collage of German words floating about in the ether, meant: “I am the small Junger.  Key–not here!”

Really logical, no?  She’d know she could give me the key as I was related to my cousin.

I still think it might have worked, if she’d not been patrolling about at this very time downstairs, where she found my mom and chatted happily to her in grammatically correct German, giving her the key and waiting with her for me to give up knocking on her door an apartment over.

About a year later I finally asked a German-speaker what I’d said.

“I am a small young one.  Key–nothing.”

Well, we can’t all be Shakespeare.  Or Goethe.  🙂  Or Rainer Maria Rilke…  HAWT writing that man had…  🙂  (And absolutely randomly, are any of you guys Rilke fans?)

Random Vehicle in Eastern Anatolia

Random Vehicle in Eastern Anatolia


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
This entry was posted in communication, German, languages, travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Proof I Don’t Sprechen Deutch, But I Try. God, Do I Try. ;-)

  1. ralfast says:

    At least you’re not a jelly doughnut.

  2. Just going through post. This was hilarious 🙂

  3. Yarnspnr says:

    Loved the truck!

    • sputnitsa says:

      Hahaha! Me too. It was so remarkably bright and innocent and amusingly decorated for a car parked out on the dusty, easternmost border of Turkey, right by Iran and Ararat. 🙂 But I loved that town, Dogubayazit.

  4. Yarnspnr says:

    Indeed! Great town name. Dog-ubay-azit! I grew up in a small town of transplanted Latvians. I would think they would be very similar. About a square mile in size, 1 19th century hotel transformed to apartments (which my parents owned), 1 general store/gas station, 1 crossroad, 1 butcher shop where they actually killed and cut up pigs and cattle, 2 churches with really cool graveyards, and later 1 firehouse (which my Dad helped to build and acted as the hall everyone rented when they got married), and 1 elementary school. The rest of the buildings were old Victorian houses and farms. It’s name was Applebachsville.

  5. Yarnspnr says:

    I forgot to mention, Old Bethlehem Pike, the main road through the middle of Applebachsville was a stage coach route from Doublin (County Seat of Bucks County) to Bethlehem (2nd largest city in Lehigh Valley next to Allentown). The hotel provided a resting place for overnight trips. There was another hotel about 5 miles down the road that offered a bar as well. That’s still in existence today. BTW, the picture of me at age 2 (1950) is on the side steps of our hotel.

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