Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The Whale v.s. The Veil
Part of traveling in foreign countries is getting used to the language barriers. Luckily for me, many Berliners speak at least a little English. Which is great, because mein Deutsch ist schlecht!
My dance company director, Zadiel Sasmaz, is kind enough to explain his classes in both English and Deutsch. And while his English is pretty good, he still makes the occasional mistake, some of which are quite funny. One day he was listing off things that I needed to buy for our upcoming choreographies. “You’ll need black pants, and you’ll need to buy a cane. You know what is a cane?” I nodded ‘yes’. “Good,” he said. “Oh, and you’ll need to buy a whale.”
“A what?!” I gasped.
“A whale,” Zadiel said, very matter of fact.
We looked at each other for a moment, realizing that there was some kind of language barrier happening. “Do you know what I mean by ‘whale’?” Zadiel asked me.
I laughed and said, “Zadiel, a whale is an animal that lives in the ocean! Do you mean ‘veil’?”
“Oh yes, I do mean ‘veil’.”
Two weeks later, and Zadiel is still having a hard time pronouncing “veil” correctly, and every time he says “whale” I picture a belly dancer holding a whale above her head.
Deutsch words can be funny all on their own, too. It may seem juvenile, but I can’t help but giggle whenever I see or hear the words einfahrt (drive in) and ausfahrt (drive out). “In fahrt!” I yell to my boyfriend when I see the word. “Out fahrt!” he replies. Yes, we are just like five year olds sometimes, but it’s healthy to embrace your inner child, right?
A lot of Deutsch words are similar to English words. For example milch is “milk”. So, you can imagine my confusion when I saw a carton in the supermarket that was labeled dick milch. Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?
Ok, one more story. I’m gonna take it back a couple years to Nicaragua. My mom is going to kill me for writing about this, but it’s so worth it. We were doing a Spanish language course in San Juan Del Sur. My mom had to go around and ask all the students, “Hola. Como estas? Yo soy Roberta. Yo tengo 47 años. Cuantos años tiene?” Except she kept saying anos instead of años. Do I need to tell you what anos means? “Hi, how are you? I am Roberta. I have 47 anuses. How many anuses do you have?”
In good fun, my teacher enthusiastically responded, “Solo uno!”. Just one.