Thursday, May 19, 2005

Gimme dat

My headache is gone, as predicted. This morning the nice biology student came over for tutoring and told me all about her new horse. Her old one died of an undetected stomach ulcer a few weeks ago and she was beside herself but now she seems a bit more chipper. I've never been very partial to horses. First there's the falling-off-factor and then they also make me sneeze like crazy. This new horse of hers sounds all right at a distance. Small, white, French and easy to train, she said. I'll take her word for it.

Lately we've been studying the differences in levels of politeness in German and English and how German people may come across as being rude and impolite when they speak English, not because they mean to be, but simply because they're unaware of the correct English usage. It's the difference between "Hand me that file." and "If it's not too much trouble, I wonder if you could possibly be so kind as to hand me that file." As a mild-mannered Canadian I'm still sometimes bowled over by German directness and the feeling that people are ordering me around. I've learned not to take it personally, though, because I know it's not directed at me in particular. It's just the way the language works and when you translate that into English, you may end up offending a few people.

I was supposed to tutor a friend's daughter this afternoon but she's suddenly developed some mysterious teenage ailment so I can go to the bookstore with the boys instead and pick out a book for a school-mate's birthday present.

Since last Friday I managed two three-mile walks using this tape ( Super Fat Burning! - cheesy, totally annoying and very effective) and I may attempt some Pilates (I LOVE this tape and isn't everyone doing Pilates these days?) tonight if I'm feeling up to it. Looks like my exercise mojo is slowly coming back. Mr. M. will pleased. He likes the curves to be in the right places.


At May 19, 2005 4:39 p.m., Blogger chicagokarl said...

Germans can be direct but there is also a fine art of asking nicely to get what you want. When I switched jobs about a year back I had to learn some new phrases because we have a more polite style here than at my old job. I now make frequent use of the word "zufällig" (by the way) and it makes a world of difference - I now no longer come across as a demanding jerk. Still, I am no master of the "flowerly speech" that some of my coworkers use - some day.

At May 19, 2005 11:29 p.m., Anonymous Armin said...

Sounds familiar, only the other way around ;-)

I was prepared from school and previous visits, nevertheless it took me a while to get used to it when I first moved to the UK.

At May 20, 2005 7:45 a.m., Anonymous Joolez said...

"If it's not too much trouble, I wonder if you could possibly be so kind as to hand me that file"

Ah please .... another "germans are impolite and rude" blog entry. The above quoted sentence with all that possible, maybe, etc .. is a wee bit too flowery. Ok, I've never been to Canada, but I've lived in the US for some years and I insist I have never heard a sentence like the above. Yes, of course they say "could you kindly pass the salt (or whatever", but that's similar to the german phrase, "kann ich bitte mal das Salz haben", or "Kannst Du mir bitte die Kartoffeln reichen"

Where do you people live? I am wondering (or maybe I am even bewildered). Really. All this reading about impolite and rude Germans kinda (correct: "kind of") makes me want to jump out the window and scream and maybe really get rude and point out the "not proper" use of the german language of foreigners,too.

Whatever happened to tolerance and understanding and a little forgiveness if somebody may not know how to use a foreign language properly, because not everybody is gifted in the language department but is still trying. Being "direct" and straightforward really has nothing to do with being impolite and rude.

I am sorry, but I guess I am just at a point where I get all upset about reading about "rude Germans" everywhere. If I were rude, and I am German, then I would have to scream: "So everybody who dislikes the Germans so much and thinks they are so terrible, rude and impolite: Leave, go home, be happy somewhere else". But I am not and I am trying to take it as a sign of needing to establish that you are different, and an instrument to express missing "home"".

But please do understand, that it is also rude and impolite to say "germans are rude and impolite". Maybe you have become more German than you like? ;-)

And please excuse any improper use of grammar, language or else, I am not a native speaker and I do not expect non-native german speakers to be perfect, so please don't expect it of me when I am using a second language. Sorry for the ranting, but you know, sometimes it's hard to keep your mouth shut when it gets too much. I promise to be nicer the next time I comment.

At May 20, 2005 10:54 a.m., Blogger christina said...

Wow, joolez, you sure told me. :-)
But unfortunately you totally missed my point. What I was trying to say is that language is more than just words and has so much to do with tone, register and perception, and that's what I was attempting to get across to my student. Nothing at all to do with language ability, really, in this case, but about how to "crack the code", so to speak. I also didn't say that Germans are rude and impolite, I said that they are sometimes perceived as being so because of cultural differences in language use. Just as Americans/Canadians/Brits/Aussis/Kiwis and what have you are often stereotyped by Germans. Judging by your reaction to my post and to the one at 'In Actual Fact' about holding doors open for people, maybe you need to write your own blog entry on this subject. I think it would be a cleansing experience for you. ;-)

As for "if you don't like it here, why don't just leave?" Believe me, if I could leave, I would, but I can't, I have no choice, so just bear with me, huh? And also? I don't hate Germans, I've been married to one for almost 15 years and he's a bit of all right most of the time.

BTW, your English is 99.9% perfect and you take much better pictures than I do. There, feel better now?

At May 21, 2005 10:11 a.m., Anonymous Joolez said...

Yeah, maybe I missed the point, concentrated on the wrong focus, maybe that's because I have encountered too many postings, conversations ... in one week touching the subject, and it just got too much for me.
Quote: "Sorry for the ranting, but you know, sometimes it's hard to keep your mouth shut when it gets too much. I promise to be nicer the next time I comment" end of quote.
And that was probably all the venting I needed :-)


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