Sep 262011

I needed to pick up a translation of our drivers licenses from the local AAA equivalent, called ADAC.  Now this is a document we hired them to produce.  It is required for our German licenses and David just got the call from them that it is ready to be picked up.  He asked if I could pick it up for him and they told him yes.  This happened about an hour before I arrived.

First I get there and the only parking available has a big sign that says  “Nur fur Besucher Marlener strasse 6”.  Oh crap.  I have to go through my head and figure out it is “only for… um, Besucher?  *probably* means me.”  I check the address at the ADAC office and it is, in fact, number 6.  Ok, so I am gonna risk it. I walk up to the building.  The first door I reach apparently isn’t a door.  It has a little arrow that says “einfang” and points to the right.  So I go to the next door.  Which also has a little arrow pointing to the right.  But there is no other door… except the one that leads into the bowels of the building.   I look puzzled and try the non-door anyways.  Nope.  Back to the bowels.  Ah, that is the right one.  I go in there and turn the corner and find the correct office.

Inside, there are two woman bustling about morning chores.  I have no doubt they just watched me seriously fumble my door roll. The one at the desk tells me “ein moment”, then she walks away and semi-turns to tell me something that seems vaguely beckoning.   She is inside a large circular desk and there are no other customers to indicate where I should stand.   I step up to where she was standing before.  But, she walks back to a place completely different and waves me over with a slight chuckle.  By now I am keenly aware that I look like a boob.  I approach the desk with some small modicum of self-effacing dignity in time for her to say something else I can’t make out.

I say as clearly as I can “Ich bin hier fur eine Übersetzung fur Herr Paris, bitte”.  (I am here for a translation for Mr. Paris, please) 
She smiles and nods and say “Ja”.
Now, at this point, you must understand, I was expecting her to hand me something.  So, I try again.
 “Eine ubersetzung fur Paris?”
She nods and asks me a question… something about do I have something?  Doh.
 At this point I am thinking I am supposed to have a receipt – or maybe she just thinks I am there to start the process?   I start to panic a little.
“Mein Deutsch is nicht gut!  Er….” I stammer desperately, and I hand her my cheat sheet with “eine Übersetzung fur Herr Paris” written on it.
“AH!! So!!” she says, brightly.  She walks over, picks up a pile of papers and brings them back.  I see one says “Herr Paris” on it, and the rest look official.  She folds them and puts them in an envelope for me and I smile and nod and thank her.
Then I depart as hastily as I can without knocking anything over.  I try a few “schönen Tag”s over my shoulder for good measure.   Yipes!

Ok, that was the least comfortable exchange I have had in a good long while. But, David claims this is a near-daily event for him.  He does typically get stuck with our more challenging language interactions, so I guess I get it easy.  Oof.  I soooo need German Lessons!

  One Response to “Small slice of life- living with poor language skillz”

  1. Yeah, I probably have about one brutally incomprehensible German conversation a day as I try to deal with driver’s licenses, buying a car, utility bills, whatever.

    Figure I can do simple stuff pretty easily, since my language skills are largely that of a 4-5 year old child. But once we start discussing timing belt changes, fuel injection, and government certification I find there are some pretty serious limits to conversing in a vocabulary best suited to discussing a ‘pretty pony’.


Leave a Reply