DICKENSON NEWS

I Don't Speak Chinese German

Posted By From On High
Date Sunday, 13 October 2019, at 1:29 p.m.

I read Amy Joanna's post to this page yesterday in which she wrote that she was making plans to travel to Germany and wanted to sharpen up her language skills, asking about books that might help her improve her German literacy. For some reason it reminded me of a funny thing that happened when I was in Munich in December. AWKWARD FUNNY.
First, I should mention to Joanna that my experiences there have taught me that if she's in one of the major cities in Germany she'll have little trouble finding people who speak English. In the countryside, though, it's another matter. So, yeah. it would be a good thing to be able to speak the native tongue. Plus, it's a common courtesy.
That said, I think I know German reasonably well. The written language very well. The spoken language too, until I come upon some slang word or colloquial term that gives me pause ("Sie gleichen sich wie ein Ei dem anderen." What?) (But that holds true for Germans trying to learn English as well - "I'm gonna open a can o' whoop-ass!" Gott im Himmel.) Overall, I can "hold my own" (another term that doesn't translate directly into German) when I'm wandering the land of my ancestors.
So I'm in Munich in December, 2018. Staying at a hotel near the Hauptbahnhof downtown. My grandson and I decide one evening that we are going to get Chinese takeout for dinner (hey, when you're in Germany you have to eat Chinese, right?). We had earlier in the day, on our way to Marienplatz (to enjoy the fabulous Christkindlmarkt festivites going on there), passed a small Chinese restaurant (see photo) on Paul-Heyse-Strasse and decided to go there.
It wasn't late in the evening but it had been dark for a while so I wasn't surprised to find that there were no customers in the place. It was, when we entered, me, my grandson, an elderly Chinese cook leaning out the kitchen window into the restaurant area, and an elderly Chinese woman doing the customer service. Probably the elderly gentleman's wife.
I mentioned that I have reasonably good German comprehension skills. But I don't know Mandarin-German. Or Seshuanese-German. Or Shanghai-German. Or whatever language the little Chinese woman was speaking.
I had picked up a menu and, when she came up to us, I pointed out an item and said, "Hallo. Ich möchte die Nummer M8 bestellen: Kung-Pao gebratenes Schweinefleisch mit Buttergemüse, bitte."
Seemed simple.
And then it went off the rails (another colloquialism, sorry).
The Chinese woman, standing not much taller than 5 feet, rather plump, replied, saying ... something.
But I had no idea what.
Not one syllable was discernable.
It wasn't any German that I'd ever heard.
It could have even been Chinese, for all I could tell.
I tried to compare what she said to what I would have said had I been selling dinners there. Did she ask me if I wanted fried rice rather than white rice? (Gebratener Reis oder weißer Reis?) No. Did she ask me if I wanted an egg roll with the meal? No way. I didn't have a clue.
So I looked at her and said, "Entschuldigen Sie bitte?"
She asked again. I think.
Now we reached the point where I stood there with nothing to say. Like an idiot.
So I did the cowardly thing and turned to my grandson and asked, "Any idea what she's saying?" (Oh, yeah, he can speak all of ten words of German. And no Mandarin.) He was no help.
Then I went to the old standby. "Sprechen sie Englisch?"
"Nein."
Darn.
I stood there. Hmm. How to get food out of this woman ...
I pointed at the menu again and said, "Kann ich Nummer Acht bekommen, BITTE?"
She smiled.
The cook smiled.
I smiled.
She and he chattered for a moment. He disappeared into the kitchen.
I have no idea what was discussed but it was probably a hoot. Something about the miracle of Americans landing on the moon.
Bottom line?
The food was absolutely ausgezeichnet.
The name of the joint? Asia Today on Paul-Heyse Strasse, Munich, near the Hauptbahnhof. I highly recommend it.
Just have someone with you, Amy Joanna, who can speak Mandarin. Or Seshuan. Or ...




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