Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Super Lignual Swiss

It always amazes me here how lingual people are.

Here is an interesting story to show you what I mean.
Yesterday on my way home from work, I was in the train, standing near the exit, minding my business, doing the ipod thing like everyone else around me when all of a sudden this old woman came out of nowwhere and tripped over my huge size 10 boot on her way to the door.

Using my lightning fast reflexes, I quickly grabbed her before she fell and broke her hip and said, 'Oh my gosh, I am so sorry' because no doubt my ginormous boot was at fault. It was in this fraction of a moment that I realized I was indeed in Switzerland still and should have said 'Es tut mir echt leid.' But before I could correct myself, the woman turned to me, looking at bit surprised at my super human strength and said, 'Oh thank you. It is ok. I am sorry too. Thank you.'

And I just stood there, mouth agape. I mean, if I was 70 something and just had my freedom of mobility flash before my eyes, I think the last thing I would be able to do is respond casually in English.

I mean, I know Spanish ok, but if someone tripped me up in the airport and said, 'Lo sieto' the last thing I would be thinking is 'Es ok, no hay problema. Gracias mi amigo.'

Someday, I will get there... while my mouth is used to speaking German now, obviously my brain is still playing favorites.

Ps. Watch out for gargantuan boots on the train. It is a big problem, I hear. Pun intended. :)


Michemily said...

Awesome story. (Of course, I like any story that makes anything Swiss look good. I loooove Switzerland and all things Swiss.)

Michemily said...

I love this story! (Of course, I love anything that makes anything/anyone Swiss look good.)

Zhu said...

Wow, I don't think I could do that either. I mean, I usually speak whatever language I hear most around me. Chinese in China, English in Canada, French in France etc. But I'd find it hard to suddenly apologize in Chinese in France, for ex.!

juanitatortilla said...

Oh gosh, yes, that reminds me of that old lady who once sat down beside on the tram.

I was 1-week-old in Zurich at that time, and was taking the tram to town at say, 10a.m. in the morning.
I had a shady spot on the tram.
Then came along this silver-haired elderly lady who sat down beside me, and said something in Swiss-German. Of course, apart from 'Ja' and 'Nein', I was useless in this German-speaking part of the world. So I gave her 2 blinks and a smile. She then translated oh-so-gently: "I'm sorry, but the sun gives me a headache".
Talk about being impressed!
(By a woman who was 3X my age!)

Swiss Miss said...

Wow, that is a great story! The Swiss are amazing. I mean, I go to Paris and can't help but speak German because my brain just thinks, "foreign language", never mind if it's the right one.

Joanna "Serowa Marzycielka" said...

I’m always impressed with elderly people who continue learning and “normal living”. I miss it in Poland :/

In 2005 we took a part in an international mountain trekking (Gebirgslauf & Wandertreff) called “3 Tage – 3 Länder – 3 Wanderungen”. We were pretty shocked as we saw, that in Germany not only youth, but mostly(!) elderly people decided to walk through the mountains! (You can check the official gallery with our photos at )Yeah, I wanna live like that too! Unfortunately, in Poland people after 40-50-60 give up the “normal” life and just sit at home. They don’t seem to be interested in any activity more complicated than breathing and watching TV.

Apart of smoking ;) Swiss people are more likely to protect their health and live an interesting & active life, I think. And that they are able to use a computer or speak a foreign language, it’s even more impressing knowing the Polish reality!

Anneliese Mostert said...

In the two weeks I've been here now I have constantly been amazed at how well EVERYBODY can also speak English. As you say, even the older people. And they are always really willing to help you in English. Makes me feel ashamed that I cannot speak their language well enough yet. I must improve my German fast!

Jessica said...

Yes! It is amazing. Everyone can speak English ... it makes it very tough to learn German and to keep speaking it regularly when you know you can be lazy from time to time and everyone will not only understand but relish in the opportunity to practice their English!


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