Germans and the English language

I have an assumption: Germans have a love hate relationship with the English language.

Germans are not known for their brilliant English language skills and and therefore are perceived as a bit ignorant if not even arrogant. I guess this problem is shared with a lot of countries where everything is translated or dubbed.

No need to understand English when going to the movies. George Clooney has  a very sexy voice in German. No need to read English in university. Most books have been translated into German. No need to speak English when travelling. There is always a native who speaks German around the corner that is happy to help.

Yes it is possible to live without English – even in a global world. But it is also quite limiting and can make you feel excluded in conversations. But it also excludes others who do not speak your native language.

I remember the first few days after I had moved to Canada. A British friend asked me to accompany her to the movies. I did. And I still remember what movie it was. GI Jane…. could I recall what the movie was all about – nope. Well… not exactly. It was about an american soldier called Jane. But that´s pretty much it. Details – no chance! I spent about 2 hours panicking and developing strategies on how to survive my first day in college learning about cultural psychology. I mean, i was not even able to follow a stupid movie! To make a long story short – I managed.

Times have probably changed … at least a bit – people feel much more comfortable with English today then they used to.

Specially meeting native English speakers is perceived as a great chance to brush up one´s language skills. Great when traveling. Not so great for those foreigners living in Germany.

My Scottish friend Andrew for example who lives in Germany.  He really would love to practice more of his German – but people don´t let him. I guess they want to be polite plus they want to improve their English. But what can he do? … he is British for god´s sake and therefore way too polite to upfront tell them that he really wants to speak German!  I am not so worried about him though. His German is quite good… and his Scottish/German kids will ensure that daddy will at one point be fluent. Otherwise his German wife will.

Is my assumption right? What is your experience with Germans and the English language?

By the way. In case you don´t really think that there is a need for English language skills … They sometimes might even save lives.


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