Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Sprechen Sie Deutsches?"

My family likes words.  The funnier they sound, the happier we are.  My brother was saying things like "Saskatchewan & Bosnia-Herzegovina" by the age of four.

We also like to say "Sprechen?!" just for fun.  "Sprechen Sie Deutsches" means "do you speak German?"

Remember the other day I went to the hardware store?  While I was there, an older man came in with a circular light bulb in his hand.  The girl nearby asked, "You want another one like that?"  "No, I want one that works"--I already liked this guy!  She headed to the back to search for a useful light bulb, and the Friendly Neighborhood Hardware Man (FNHM) says to him in Spanish, "She's from Carolina del Norte!"  The older man promptly looked at me and said, "Sprechen Sie Deutsches?"  I can't tell you how happy I am that I didn't laugh, just to hear the familiar phrase!  FNHM told him, "She's Americana; she speaks English."

The following conversation was in English:
Older Man: "You speak English?"
Me: "Yessir."
Older Man: "I need about 3-4 months in the United States to get my English back.  I don't speak it like I did 40 years ago."
Me: "Why did you learn English 40 years ago?"
Older Man: "I worked with some good Mennonite boys on the Trans-Chaco Highway."

Me...speechless...because this man had a pretty big part in a pretty big road in Paraguay, 40 years ago.  It's the road that I'll likely use if I work in a tribal area in the western half of the country.

He left with his light bulb, I left with my plumbing project and with a greater respect for the neighborhood hardware store.

PS--To make it better, his English had a Dutch accent to it, so I'm honestly not sure if he was one of the "Good Mennonite Boys" or if he retained their accent for 40 years!  Maybe I'll see him on the next trip to get nails.

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