02 December 2010

Speaking like a Native

My UBD colleague, Ann Elgar, is from England, and she tells a story about when she was 19 and could speak German really well. She was travelling around Germany at the time, and she bought a train ticket to go to Cologne. Despite reading the instructions really carefully, she managed to buy the wrong kind of ticket. When the ticket inspector came along, he insisted that she would have to pay the price of a full ticket, and if she refused to do this, he would have her arrested by the transport police when they reached their destination. She argued back that she should not have to pay the full price of a new ticket as the instructions were not clear. After a long, protracted argument, eventually another passenger intervened and asked her how old she was and where she was from. When she replied that she was 19 and from England, the other passenger berated the ticket inspector for giving so much trouble to such a young visitor to Germany. At this point, the ticket inspector apologised, saying he had no idea that she was not German. And she was allowed to proceed with her journey with no further problems.

The moral of this story is that it sometimes does not pay to speak a foreign language too well.