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Old 16.06.2011, 20:09
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Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

So, I'm on a huge house/apt search and I've been in the process of contacting millions of businesses, tenants to see the house and getting in contact with sometimes the grounds workers etc.

I'm halfway through a B2 certification, but still, I must admit, I talk like a 6 year old...sometimes the verb is backwards, other times it's finding the right word.

After all this communication, I always seem to fit the phrase 'Es tut mir leid mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut' (I'm sorry, my German is not so good) and most of the time I get a confused look and a pause as if they don't know what to say after that. It makes for a very awkward pause.

The reason I'm posting is I wanted to ask some of the folks on here, is it required that I point out my language handicap or is it best unsaid that my German sucks? I just feel like they would have preferred me to NOT point that issue out in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I get the occasional 'Oh, es ist gut!' (Oh it's good!) or a smile and laugh, but the confused looks definitely weight out those. Is it something where generally we don't point out something that's already known?
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Old 16.06.2011, 20:12
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

I believe its better if you stuggle to speak German anw. At least you show that you try. As for pointing it out, no need its kind of obvious. But if you do do it with a smile (im an idiot foreigner style :P)
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Old 16.06.2011, 20:38
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

Maybe they seem confused because you are speaking perfect German when you say: "'Es tut mir leid mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut' ?

I often seem to confuse people here because, while I can speak (some) German, I often can't understand what is being said back to me because it's spoken so quickly (or it's in Swiss German. Mmmph).

So I usually start off by saying: "Sorry, ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch. Sprechen Sie English?" And I find that usually their English is a lot better than MY German. And if not, well... then it often turns into a game of charades.
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Old 16.06.2011, 20:41
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

No need to be apologetic; after all you are making the effort to speak their language.

I use French in my emails to make reservations in francophone Switzerland, and used to end by apologizing for my French "Made in USA". One response gave me a good laugh, the respondent commented that my French was far better than his English "Made in Switzerland"
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Old 16.06.2011, 20:50
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

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The reason I'm posting is I wanted to ask some of the folks on here, is it required that I point out my language handicap or is it best unsaid that my German sucks? I just feel like they would have preferred me to NOT point that issue out in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I get the occasional 'Oh, es ist gut!' (Oh it's good!) or a smile and laugh, but the confused looks definitely weight out those. Is it something where generally we don't point out something that's already known?
I think you get the confused looks because they 1) long ago realised you a not fluent in German (yet ) nor native German and 2) they weren't paying attention to that anylonger while talking with you.

Everywhere I speak my poorly German around here it is most appreciated and little by little I learn and get to get the grammar and pronouncing better and better. Now I only apologise if I'm totally messing up my whole point in a discussion due to bad language skills. I find that if I stop to correct myself too often or stop to apologise too much while talking in German I often just make things worse for myself as I get more insecure and focus too much on finding the right word, verb, endings etc. instead of the content, my message ...(that goes with my English too, I'm afraid )

Everyone I have been talking with on official matters or in private have been patient, helpful (i.e. kindly suggesting the word I am missing) and clearly approving my effort. I try to pay back by learning more and more and don't go on making the same mistakes all over.

Don't feel like a 6 year old, you are an expert in your own language. It is difficult expressing yourself rigthly in a foreign language. Everyone knows that, you can be sure the Swiss people appreciate your effort
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Old 16.06.2011, 23:44
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

Thanks guys - much appreciated with the responses. I think it's my personality that pulls out the many fails in a somewhat successful learning curve.

Perhaps maybe next time I should look at them blankly as if 'what? You don't understand the awesome German that's coming out of my mouth?'...not sure that will get me the apartment I want in the long run though.
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Old 17.06.2011, 00:01
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

If your german is bad you're pointing out the obvious, if it's good/ok it looks like you're fishing for compliments. Both don't help, but a request to speak a bit slower might: "Könnten Sie bitte etwas langsamer sprechen?"
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Old 17.06.2011, 00:15
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

Understanding what they are trying to say is not a problem. Does it really seem like I'm fishing for compliments? Yes, I may be pointing out an obvious situation - but I was going for the 'yes, I know I'm making mistakes, just bare with me and we'll both get through this situation'.

I would hope that apartment tenants and care takers wouldn't think that I'm asking for a grade on my German speaking skills. But, could be the reason why I'm getting funny looks...
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Old 17.06.2011, 03:05
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

I am about to join you on the apartment search in Zurich in another week. I have learned one phrase so far... "Ich bin nicht fließend Deutsch, sprechen Sie Englisch?" = I am not fluent in german, do you speak english? I purchased the Rosetta Stone for German but I'm not making good headway. Those cd don't teach the language skills needed for the apartment search or finding a kindergarden. How have you gone about learning the language?
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Old 17.06.2011, 05:21
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

Never heard the term before, but quite nice. This might be a better version to say during these conversations.

As for using the German, I went to classes, about the only thing I could do to actually learn it since I don't have a lot of German/Swiss friends (I have some, but most of them speak to me in English instead).

I know off topic, but I used Micheal Thomas and they are pretty good in combination to classes - I use them in my ipod/car and they have at least helped me to become fast at my responses rather than think. pause. speak. pause. correct sentence. pause. smile.
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Old 17.06.2011, 05:26
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

I find that this goes down much better with the locals:

Ich bin nicht fliessend Deutsch, sprechen Sie auch Englisch?
I'm not so fluent in German, do you also speak English ?

( Longer version: Leider kann ich momentan noch nicht fliessend Deutsch sprechen, aber ich lerne und hoffe es bald zu können )

And usually the other party responds well and takes up the invitation to speak in EN.


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Old 17.06.2011, 07:06
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

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...I'm halfway through a B2 certification, but still, I must admit, I talk like a 6 year old...sometimes the verb is backwards, other times it's finding the right word.
The first thing I would ask is, is the course pretty much the main area of German interaction that you have? Because when I was going through B1/B2 (never completed B2) I felt exactly the same thing.

Now having worked in a German speaking company for a few years I realise that these courses are very good at giving you a framework, a skeletion if you like, but thereafter it's down to you to put the flesh on it. The only way I found of doing this properly is to talk German with native speakers outside of the classroom. Easy for me as my job involves this.

I still make a lot of mistakes, and my German could hardly be described as fluent, but I've long since given up apologising for it. Just keep blundering through German and listen to the responses you get, as they'll tell you a lot about how things are supposed to be said, and gradually you'll find it easier to say the things you want to say.

As for your German/Swiss friends, stop them from speaking in English to you. It may seem easier for you at the moment, and it's probably easier for them as well, but it's doing you absolutely no favours if you want to learn German.
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Old 17.06.2011, 08:43
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Re: Apologizing for my horrible German...In German.

Easy fix, just raise your voice a little and speak clearly without any charm or humor:

"I AM HIER VOR ZE APARTMENT ZAT YOU VER MAKING ZE ADVERTIZEMENT VOR!"

Nothing like a good bit of stereotyping early in ze, erm, the morning for foreign visitors.
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