I have to give my local Bavarians credit. They try to understand my German and maintain a polite expression when listening to me. Most of the time. Occasionally I receive a bewildered look with the impolite noise of “Hehhh?” meaning “Pardon me?” in proper speech.
The harshest critics of my German language skills are non-native German speakers, other foreigners attempting the German language.
In the pizzeria next to The Village’s cinema, my friend ordered for her family then I proceeded to order. In German. With an American accent. Because that’s how I talk.
The Italian young lady, with limited German skills, not a thirteen year veteran like myself, said,
“I’m sorry. Could you please speak in German? I don’t speak anything else.”
I looked to my friend for confirmation that I didn’t have too much ear wax blocking the sounds.
She smiled and looked down, avoiding eye contact with me.
“Excuse me,” my friend said in slow, perfect, high German, betraying her Bavarian roots, “my friend would like a pasta carbonara, a salami pizza without cheese and a salad with chicken.”
“Allora,” said the young server repeated my order.
“Excuse me,” I began, annunciating carefully in German, “I’m confused. What language did you think I was speaking?”
My friend choked on her water.
The young lady looked at me.
“English?” she asked.
“I did NOT order in English. That was German,” I stated. Loudly.
I looked to my friend, whose shoulders shook from suppressing her laughter.
“It was English,” the server stated.
“No. It wasn’t.”
I couldn’t let it go.
“Ok, whatever,” she said and walked away.
I turned to my friend, “I spoke German, right? Because I don’t remember speaking English just then.”
“You spoke German,” she laughed, “I think she was confused by your accent.”
It’s such a small incident. It doesn’t attack who I am as a person. It says more about the young woman’s lack of education and experience, if anything. But I wanted an apology. I wanted her to acknowledge that my German skills were better than hers.
We are both foreigners. I should have been more patient with her faults instead of condescending. But I felt she didn’t try to understand me, she didn’t put enough effort in with the language, and she didn’t even give herself a chance.
As a foreigner making a life in a new country, I feel one has to do better than that.
Because I’m trying to win the best foreigner award.