I received my language diploma today and am overjoyed to find that I was awarded full marks on each portion of the language test! My teachers were also very proud and mentioned that I’m the first person to ever receive 100% on the tests. I practically wafted home on cloud 9 but quickly returned to earth because as I flicked the light switch and nothing happened.
“Why is that such a problem”, you might ask. Well, in our apartment building, light maintenance is resolved by the Hausmeister (Superintendent). “No big deal, call him”, you retort. And therein lies the reason for my rapid descent from the heavens! Our Hausmeister speaks no English at all. “But, hey, didn’t you just pass your language exam with flying colors? Aren’t you bi-lingual now?”, you chuckle at me. Sure, I know how to place an order at a restaurant or request a specific cut/size of meat at the deli-counter or read signs to find the right bus/train. These are things we went over frequently in class and the questions/statements are generally always the same. However, a telephone call about an arbitrary subject is a beast of another kind. Not to mention, I speak standard German and, according to my husband, our Hausmeister speaks a dialect from the mountains…and he speaks really quickly!
However, not to be daunted by my first business interaction, I strolled the Erdgeschoss (ground floor) hoping to run into him. Failing that, I returned to my apartment and called the business office to acquire his number. As the phone rang, I quickly ran over verbs, nouns with their articles, and the various conjugations that I would need to convey my dilemma. As the answering machine message played, I mentally reminded myself to speak slowly and whatever I might say, not to forgot to use the formal tense of ‘you’. Slowly and clearly I articulated who I was, in which apartment I resided, what I needed, and my telephone contact. Smiling to myself, I replayed what I’d said in my head and congratulated myself on my correct usage of even trennbare Verben (verbs like ‘anrufen‘ – to call – are broken into two parts with the prefix transferring to the end of the sentence; i.e. “Bitte rufe mir an” – “Please call me”).
Seems that I did earn that certificate after all; however, the real test is when I call them back tomorrow (missed the return call by going to the foodstore) and actually have to speak to a real person. Suppose they, too, speak a dialect? Not to mention, I’ll still have to call our Hausmeister…oh well, one obstacle at a time, eh?!