Have Fun with Your New Language!

One thing I’ve noticed while trying to use German during my time in Berlin is that I’m having a lot of fun. While it’s true that I’m often frustrated—by what I cannot say—I really try to celebrate all my little wins.

7 ordering food at the biergartenWhat I like to do is to see how far I can get into any German-speaking situation without the person I’m speaking to transitioning to English. This is a very delicate surgery since Berliners are generally pretty fluent in English and always interested in practicing it. It reminds me a little of Operation, the battery-powered game where your physical dexterity is tested by trying to remove little white plastic ailments from an electrified patient. If you veer too far off course, the red bulb nose will buzz and flash indicating that the game is over.

I’ve discovered that the trick to really mastering this game in German is confidence and style.

7 ordering coffee waiting in lineThere are three places in particular that I visit to play my little German speaking game: Kaiser’s grocery store, Rossmann drugstore, and at a café called Kaffeemitte. My goal, at first, was to memorize typical questions and responses. I would like a large coffee with milk to go, please. Ich möchte einen großen Milchkaffee zum Mitnehmen, bitte, or Ich hätte gern einen großen Milchkaffee zum Mitnehmen. Originally I started off with just einen Kaffee, bitte but that resulted in too many responses: With milk? To go? For here? What size?

Since I was making my first attempts at communicating, I always wanted to reduce the chance that the barrista would throw me a curve ball, like asking me if I wanted anything else. However, the more I practiced with TOTALe and around town, the more likely I was to be able to handle questions thrown my way. My explicit goal was always to see if I could get through the entire interaction without needing to speak English and without the vendor switching into English.

Once I turned it into a game it became fun and I always pumped my fist in personal triumph when I could “end scene” having spoken 100 percent German. It was a bonus if I got a smile from the shopkeeper.

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Chris Abraham

Thousands of people around the world know exactly what Chris Abraham had for lunch yesterday. With 13,000 followers on Twitter, posts on Digital Next blog and SocialMedia.biz, and two popular blogs of his own, Chris has a wide audience and is generally considered an interesting guy. However, his content is far from the despised what-I-had-for-lunch posts, as Chris frequently imparts his knowledge of social media, salivates over expensive cars, and documents his adventures as an American living in Berlin, Germany. In between his trips across the Atlantic to and from his homes in Washington, D.C. and Berlin, Chris runs a social media marketing agency called Abraham Harrison LLC [AHLLC] with his business partner, Mark Harrison. AHLLC has 35 employees from 12 countries. The diversity of culture and language makes staff meetings less like, well staff meetings, and more like a UN summit. Many employees could conduct meetings in English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, or German, or a combination of all five at once. Not wanting to be one-upped by his staff (again), Chris is remedying his lingual shortcomings by learning German with Rosetta Stone. He also would like to impress his friends in Berlin with fluent, witty, dinner party conversation in German. Rosetta Stone has commissioned Chris to share his German language learning journey and his experience with TOTALe on this blog. Chris’s insights on social media marketing, the BMW, and Berlin dinner parties can be found at www.marketingconversation.com and chrisabraham.com. Chris can also be found on Twitter (www.twitter.com/chrisabraham) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/chrisabraham).
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