I pulled up a seat at the Gut Ostler Farm Saturday Afternoon Open House in mid-October.
“Sprechen sie Deutsch?”
“Ja, ein bisschen,” I replied.
“Nein, Kyle sprichst gut Deutsch,” my friend interjected.
And then I froze.
As a person familiar with the stage and mostly comfortable in front of people, it was surprising how an intimate gathering of four around a picnic table could suddenly become the largest, most ominous audience in the world.
My throat tightened, my eyes searched for a way out and all looked at me expecting something to spring forth. And it didn’t.
I stuttered and stammered, and tried to remember how to say simple things. And eventually I excused myself to get some food.
My vocabulary continues to grow and my confidence has picked up a bit, but I am nowhere near to what I would call a good German. I’m not even sure if what I wrote up there is correct and I’m too lazy right now to go check, so please just apply a ‘(sp?)’ to it all.
I eventually returned to my table with a plate of meat.
When your language skills are right on the verge, you’re bound to occasionally end up with something you’re uncertain of (check out my next post for more on that). Being affirmative and smily can often carry you through to the the next contextual contact and may make the difference between interrupting the flow or finding a verbal lifesaver to pull you back into the conversation. Other times you end up with a large plate of gristly meat when you thought you’d be getting the potato salad platter with lamb shank.
My friends looked at my plate of meat and I proceeded to tear at it with razor-sharp incisors as if it’s exactly what I ordered. Fortunately, that gave me something keep my mouth busy until the conversation changed to a direction I could follow.