De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


Watch Your Language!

One of the curious aspects of living here in the Scenic City is that Chattanoogans are quite a bit easier to understand than most Southerners. At least, the ones I come into contact with.

There was an occasion back in '94 when I first arrived at Robins AFB. I went to Church and got there a bit early, so I just sat there, writing in my journal. I vividly remember one guy coming over and trying to talk to me. Admittedly, I had to "shift gears" and switch my thinking from German to English, but I have no idea what that guy said to me. I must have sounded pretty stupid, trying to formulate a reply to something I didn't even understand. Later, as I got to know the guy, I was able to understand him.

That reminded me of when I was Ramstein AB, near Kaiserslautern, back in '89. The people I went to Church with were really great, but there was one slight drawback: Kaiserslautern lies in Rheinland-Pfalz, where they speak a dialect called "Pfälzisch" (or "Pelzish" they way they say it). Listening to it was like listening to someone drag their fingernails across a chalkboard. It was also pretty tough to understand. Of course, I realize that they probably have equal difficulty understanding me.

One afternoon, a bunch of us had dinner over at one family's house. I mostly listened in as the conversation covered topics of local interest. Slowly, they slipped further and further from proper German into Pfälzisch. Finally, at one point I spoke up and made a comment, and the reaction was visible. Everyone suddenly remembered that there was An Outsider present who wasn't really following the conversation all that well. All I had to do after that was make the stray comment and the conversation stayed a bit closer to proper German. Nice.


At 11:28, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

I am sure that the longer you were there the more you understood.

At 14:32, Blogger Jahn said...

Warner Robins or Kaiserslautern?

Makes no difference. Never did really understand some of those people. :-)

At 23:59, Blogger T. F. Stern said...

Back when I was a cop I walked in to a room where a group of young Nigerian men were talking. As soon as I entered they stopped talking English and opted to speak in their native tongue of Igbu (sp). I only knew a couple of things, how to say hello and so I let them go on and on, their body characteristics indicating that they were not fond of cops as they would smile at an off color comment they thought I could not understand. I then walked over and said hello to them in their language and smiled as if I'd understood each word. They went wide eyed and clammed up tight. That was fun.


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