Maybe this should be titled, One Step Forward, and Two Steps Back: The Struggles of Speaking German instead. This is a story that Cheyenne has given me permission to share, although she stills feels like she may die of shame and embarrassment after her adventures in Deutschland today.
Cheyenne has been busy taking German lessons again. She has been plugging along in an intensive course and doing very well. In general, Cheyenne speaks and understands a great deal of German. She struggles with the grammar, and also struggles when it comes to testing in this language. But for the most part, she is able to understand most of what is being said to her, and she can make herself clearly understood……… usually.
Maybe not so much today.
The classroom where her German course is held was being used for something else today. So, her instructor took the class to a local museum instead. It was a more casual day, and everyone was chatting and mingling about. The conversation turned to the current state of the world while looking at an animated map. The map showed how many countries have had their populations grow significantly due to immigration and the influx of refugees. In comparison to other countries, the USA did not show as much population growth.
This embarrassed Cheyenne and she tried to explain her thoughts to her class. A class made up of immigrants and refugees.
Cheyenne tried to say “This is disgusting, the USA is so large and should be able take more refugees and immigrants!”
However, she missed a few key words in her statement.
The translation came out more like, “This is disgusting, we have so much”. Which in turn was understood by her class to mean, “We have too many immigrants and refugees”.
Instead of expressing her support of immigrants and refugees she managed alienate herself from her entire class with one sentence.
She panicked, ran to the stairway, and cried. Then, she called me to say that the class now thinks she is a racist.
Being the supportive mom that I am, I started to laugh. I also quickly let her know that they don’t think she is a racist, they think she is a white supremacist. She cried more.
She finally pulled herself together, and rejoined her class. She attempted to clarify her words again, but doesn’t feel positive that she was clear.
So friends, how many of you have made terrible mistakes in your second language? Give us some examples to help Cheyenne feel better.