Saturday, April 20, 2013

Trying to speak German...the Farmers' Market Edition

Today I stepped out for a typical Saturday morning excursion that I enjoy making if I'm in town: shopping in downtown Kaiserslautern. I really enjoy stopping by the downtown farmers' market.

I have tried speaking German when I order things. It basically works...and the vendors speak English back to me. At this point, it's probably a good thing, because I basically know what I need to say in German but that doesn't mean that I'll always understand the response.

I've had a few snags in the process, though. I asked one vendor for what I hoped mean "one orange." I was using the indefinite article, the equivalent of the word "an." I couldn't remember what gender the word orange takes (yes, that's fun - every word has a gender and the only way pretty much to know it is just to memorize it - don't EVER learn a German noun without its accompanying article!). I guessed; since the word "orange" seems like a French word in original and it even sounds French (to me, at least) when it's pronounced in German, I guessed that the word is neuter because usually foreign words are neuter.

WRONG! The vendor was more than happy to tell me that I wanted "eine orange." Okay, then the word was feminine; many words that end in -e are feminine. Usually the people I've met here have been really friendly and helpful, but I think this guy was having a bad day. Sorry, dude. Or, he was just introducing me to the error of my ways.

I didn't let this daunt me, though; after all, I now will remember the gender of the word orange! Today I went to buy some Spargel - it's that time of the year, after all! Spargel is asparagus. Germans are very, very fond of it in the spring and the white asparagus seems especially popular. Since it was €8 a bunch, I opted for the much more reasonable €2.50 a bunch green Spargel (plus I'm just not super into the white stuff anyway). It's so expensive this year because the growing season has been out of whack because of the long winter.

Anyway, I told the vendor "one, please" (auf Deutsch) and pointed at the bunch of Spargel. I was horrified when he thought about it, and said, "ok, one Euro is fine." I meant that I had wanted one bunch of Spargel; I didn't mean that I was telling him that I would only pay €1 for the bunch! At that point I was too embarrassed so I handed him the €1 coin and thanked him.

Maybe I just speak English around town, but then downside is that my German will never improve.

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