Berlin- Politician Asks: Sprechen Sie Deutchy Baby? Yes, A Little
Berlin– Its always an odd sensation when you find yourself a little out of sorts in the Berlin streets and approach a German to ask them ever so timidly, “Sprechen Sie English.” They hesitate a moment before saying, “A little” and you try, in your best German to explain your predicament, breaking your teeth on the Der Die Das of it all. You finally manage to explain what’s up and low and behold you didn’t know that you had been talking to goddamn Wilhelm Shakespeare the entire time, because once its their turn, the English pours forth with the fluency of the Mississippi River. Lets face it, a significant percentage of Germans speak English markedly better than 90% of the people living on Long Island, and that’s lowballing it.
So when an article recently came out from the point of view of a German politician decrying the fact that some Berlin restaurants employ no German speaking staff it naturally peaked Mr. Eatler’s interest, because basically y’all already talkin good English down yonder anyhow.
The deal is that said politician is sick of having to order lattes in English and put forth the notion that every immigrant should be compelled to learn German as this is a German country where a national identity should remain cohesive. This has sympathetic resonance of Americans getting their panties in a twist over having to choose between English or Spanish while making a call to the cable company. Just “oprima numero uno” and get it over with already.
The underlying force behind all of this is not cultural, it’s economic. Companies realize they could serve more people if they broaden their market and language is a part of that. So would having a staff that can cater to natives as well as immigrants make more sense? Perhaps, but maybe there are restaurants that simply realize that their market is mainly English capable patrons and they don’t see the point in hiring German fluent people. Serving to a specific audience while not appealing to another is a thing called “niche marketing”
On the whole learning a requisite amount of conversational German is not an entirely preposterous notion. After all, this is Germany and when you are a guest in someones house, or even moving in to someones house it’s only good manners to try to respect and accommodate their shit. So yeah, hire someone that speaks enough passable German so they can help German customers, and hire someone who speaks English so they can help the rest of the world.
But if you’re already spouting Mark Twain like prose, stop torturing immigrants and tell them the train station is three blocks over and one down. Lets put it this way, the people who go to the restaurants who don’t have any German speaking staff are English capable anyway. So while it may annoy you to have to speak English in your home town, perhaps it might annoy you less if you consider that you’re eating a bowl of kick ass ramen.