Diese Briefe wurden von unserem chinesischen Freund übersetzt

A friend of mine is taking a vacation to Germany with her husband, and she asked me for help in booking a guest room in a seminary in one of the cities they will be visiting. I translated her initial inquiry into German, and she e-mailed both the English and German versions to the manager.

The response was entirely in German.

For the next few days, I translated the responses from the residence manager to English, then translated my friend's replies back into German. Finally, all the details appear to have been settled, but my friend was somewhat concerned that the residence manager may be in for a bit of a surprise to learn that neither she nor her husband speak German. (Well, her husband studied it for a year in high school and has been working through free German audio lessons courtesy of Deutsche Welle.) She asked me to make a little note at the end of her final message to set the manager's expectations:

P.S. Wirklich sprechen wir kein Deutsch. Diese Briefe wurden von unserem chinesischen Freund übersetzt.

My friend had invited me to join her on the trip when she started planning it, but I declined at the time. In retrospect, I should have accepted. It probably would have been a lot of fun.

Yesterday, Michael Puff remarked in a comment, "Wenn du mal nach Deutschland kommst, lass es mich wissen, dann treffen wir uns mal und sprechen nur Deutsch." ("If you ever come to Germany, let me know and we can meet and speak exclusively in German.")

Thanks, Michael for the kind offer, aber ich vermute, dass ich keine Probleme haben werde, in Deutschland Gelegenheiten zu finden, nur Deutsch zu sprechen. ("... but I suspect that I won't have any problems finding opportunities in Germany to speak exclusively in German.")

(I'm joking! I'll be sure to let everybody know when I go travelling and am willing to meet up with people.)

Comments (26)
  1. rich says:

    They should be fine. When I’ve been in Germany, I’ve not found anybody — from factory machine operators and gas station attendants to train crew to businesspeople who did not speak fluent English, many with virtually no trace of an accent. Puts the rest of us to shame!

  2. Matthias says:

    No need to worry about the language in Germany. Especially young people in larger cities speak english, most of them excellently. I’m always happy when someone asks me a question in English. Let me know if you ever come to Berlin, I’ll show you around.

  3. Chris says:

    Yes. Most people are able to speak English. The best reason might be, that English is what we call it, the "world-language". Especially when it comes to IT-related stuff, approx. 95% is done in English.

    I’m from Germany but in my company where I work every day, it’s required to be able to speak English.

  4. Mariusz says:

    … so when you’re in germany drop in to Poland for few days :D

  5. Rich Ruh says:

    During my first visit to Germany, I was so embarressed at how well everyone spoke English, that I decided to learn German.  Had I known what I was in for (see Raymond’s post from Tuesday), I never would have done it.  But after 2.5 years, I’m committed now… (or should be committed, I’m still not sure).

  6. Alun Jones says:

    Good luck finding someone in Germany who will speak German with someone who is obviously a native/fluent English speaker.

    If my experience is anything to go by, from the moment they detect that German is not your natural language, most Germans that I met while visiting there (on a couple of occasions, once for school, and again for business) seem excited at the chance to test their English skills, and will speak nothing but English.

  7. Nawak says:

    "Also, dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please"

    – Walter Sobchak

    What? I am the only one who thought about The Big Lebowski?

  8. It is one of the biggest mistake to do. Trying to speak a language you do not know with someone whom it’s their mother tongue. They will assume you know the language and keep it up. Except dutch, they’ll switch to english as soon as they think I am not dutch. Might be because I live in Amsterdam.

    I know my fathers english is poor but he travels around the world and has a blast! He has never really had any problems when visiting here or anywhere else with only swedish and some basic english.

    There is no language barrier. It just leads to new paths to make yourself understood.

  9. Native German Gringo says:

    Just a little nitpick:

    It sounds a little bit more natural if you say "In Wirklichkeit sprechen wir kein Deutsch" (or "In echt…")


  10. Dieter says:

    Das tolle ist ja, dass man z.B. in einem Zug in Deutschland die meisten englisch sprechenden Personen bestens belauschen kann, sie einen aber nicht verstehen können ;-)

    (Mich würde mal interessieren, wieviele Deutsche sich in den Kommentaren dieses Blogs verewigen)

  11. Michael Puff says:

    @Raymond: Da wäre ich mir nicht so sicher. Hotelpersonal sollte in der Regel Englisch sprechen können. Bedienungen in Restaurants eben so. Das selbe gilt für Manager und der gleichen. Schwieriger wird es schon bei Taxi- oder Busfahrern. Und wenn du dich dann in Softwareentwickler-Kreisen rumtreibst werden die wahrscheinlich auch sofort Englisch sprechen, wenn du dabei bist. ;) Bietet sich ja auch an, weil das meiste so wie so Englisch ist. Es gibt zwar auch deutsche Begriffe für Button oder Event (Schaltfläch, Ereignis) aber meist hört man doch den englischen Begriff. Obwohl ich mich selber bemühe, dann doch eher den deutschen Begriff zu wählen in manchen Fällen.

    For the non-german speaking visitors: Ask Raymond for a translation. Might be a good exercise for him. ;)

  12. Paul says:

    One of the things that I have learned in my (so far small amount of) travelling is that if 2 humans wish to communicate, they will. Regardless of language.  It’s what makes it so much fun

  13. Michael Puff says:

    @Paul: But just think of how many wars are based on missunderstandings and missing of communication. :(

  14. Brian says:

    I find that if someone doesn’t understand the language I am speaking, it helps to speak it louder.


  15. Mathias says:

    Actually, you *may* find it difficult to speak German in Germany, Raymond. Many Germans would be so happy about meeting you and having the opportunity to use and improve their English, they’d constantly pester you with English :)

  16. Hans says:

    "Except dutch, they’ll switch to english as soon as they think I am not dutch. Might be because I live in Amsterdam. "

    I’m Dutch. We usually have no problem speaking English. We learn Deutsch, French and English at highschool.

    When I go to the seaside I’m usually talked to in Deutsch even as Dutch guy. It doesn’t have anything to do with Amsterdam, I think.

  17. Markus says:

    Komm nach Österreich! Hier sprechen wir auch Deutsch, sind aber vermutlich etwas gehemmter in unserem Englisch und würden daher mit dir eher Deutsch sprechen.

    (Come to Austria! Here we speak German too. However we are presumably somewhat more restrained in our English and therefore rather would speak German to you.)

  18. wondering says:

    Well, are you going to tell us or not??? What does

    "Wirklich sprechen wir kein Deutsch. Diese Briefe wurden von unserem chinesischen Freund übersetzt."

    mean in English?

  19. wondering,

    It means, "Actually, we do not speak any German.  This letter was translated by our Chinese friend."


  20. Schnecke says:

    Have you aver translated "Microsoft" into german ? It is "Winzigweich" !

  21. Michael Puff says:

    @markus: Du willst doch nicht etwa behaupten, dass ihr da unten in Österreicht deutsch sprecht? ;)

  22. strik says:

    Michael Puff:

    Sei froh, dass er kein Schweizer ist. :)

  23. Ich spreche kein deutsch says:

    Eine beer bitte.

  24. german says:

    Hey, I could figure out most of the conversations using google translation:


    a few sentences are extremely accurate but others need a human touch I guess

  25. Not a single correct return.

Comments are closed.