in Berlin

Speak German in Philly?

I remember knocking on the silver door at Bar Tausend under the bridge a few years back feeling slightly discombobulated. As the door opened, the bouncerette asked me whether I was on the guest list, in English. My gut reaction was to ask whether I have to speak English to order drinks, in German. I continued to speak German as she checked me off the list and walked into Tausend.

I’ve had conversations with expats in Berlin who have lived in the comeback city for 5 years and speak 5 words of German. Most of them have excuses and point out that they’re gonna enroll in a Volkshochschule language course soon. Due to the influx of new Berliners, who revel in it’s rich history of migration and openness to change, you can get by with English, but the times are changing, again.

Luckily enough, I speak both languages in their respective native tongue, yet I’ve never walked into a German bar or restaurant in the States where no one speaks English. I’m always amazed at Quebec and their quest to protect the French language, as it’s the only significant cultural enclave in North America that succesfully resists the English language.

Enter the urban legend of Muhlenberg, so it goes, German almost became the official language in the United States. There was a proposal in Congress to have all federal laws written in German and English, jaa se Tschermans love rules! The final vote in Congress for that proposal was supposedly never recorded, yet Muhlenberg, of German descent and first Speaker in the House of Representatives, was the one guy who tipped the vote.

This isn’t really the time to go traipsing around the globe revelling in our own ignorance. So please, hipster expatriates of Berlin. For the grannies who still live in your neighborhoods. For the Syrian immigrants who are busting their asses to learn the language of the country that took them in. For Dominik Drutschmann and his one day of relaxation. Bitte. Learn just a little bit of fucking German.

via Rebecca Schuman

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