American making fun of how Americans speak German

A few months ago I was at a friend’s house staying with his family.  They moved to Germany about the same time as us however live in a different part of Germany so their kids go to German schools.  As we were sitting around the table with both Americans and native German speakers, it was obvious that their two girls were excelling at learning German as the conversations were drifting between English and German.  At one point, the oldest young lady said that Americans (excluding herself of course) sounded so funny speaking German.  It wasn’t just our accents that made us sound funny but the way we make our sentences.  She then proceeded to give an example by saying a few sentences how an American says them (accent and sentence structure) and then said that this is how it should be said (with her German accent and in ways Germans say things).  I was first shocked and then laughing so hard.  When she said everything like an American, I really sat there thinking – “That’s exactly how I would say it and that’s my accent”.  Then when she spoke like a German I thought – “No wonder I don’t understand what people are saying so much of the time – they speak German very differently than I do”.  I laughed so hard that I had to have her do it a couple of times as to me it was just great.  Eventually, I had to ask them to do it on camera and send it to me (which they did and below is the video).

Now this might not be that funny to many of you but if you have ever learned a foreign language with actual native speakers around, I think you can relate. It also proves – learn other languages at a young age!!!

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  1. I’ve been experiencing something a little like to this over the course of the last year or two, as I’ve been (slowly) trying to learn American Sign Language since October 2007. ASL itself has a very different grammar; there are no “to be” verbs, and the word order is quite dissimilar to spoken English.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum is “Signed Exact English,” in which every word is signed, using the same grammar and sentence structure as spoken English. However, this gets very tiring for everyone involved, and it uses signs that aren’t in true ASL (such as the “to be” verbs).

    For that reason, when a conversation is going on between deaf and hearing people, it’s often in an adapted form that is called “pidgin sign” or “contact signing” or “signed English.” The word order stays fairly close to spoken English, but the “to be” verbs are dropped and thoughts are occasionally phrased in ways that are closer to true ASL grammar.

    I can usually make myself understood with my signing … but my “receptive signing” skills (the ability to understand when someone is signing to me) are very weak, because I don’t often get the opportunity to actually have conversations with anyone in sign language. There is a Deaf Meetup in Greensboro (30 miles north of me) that meets an average of twice a month … but now that I’m unemployed — and gas prices are going up — it’s becoming harder to justify the expense of attending the meetings.

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