Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby Cavesa » Fri Sep 01, 2017 6:29 pm

Josquin wrote:
tastyonions wrote:I would like to know the German equivalent of "On n'a pas élevé les cochons ensemble!"

I'm afraid that's quite an intranslatable idiom that has no equivalent in German. If someone felt indignated by being called "du", they would probably just say something like: "So gut kennen wir uns nun auch nicht."


A good one, thanks!

We have this in Czech, just with a small modification. "My jsme spolu krávy nepásli!" We weren't herding the cows together. Curious how many things like that are common across languages. I'd say this is likely to change. It is already a distant idea now. In a few decades, we will probably say equivalents of "We weren't playing WoW together." :-D

It is very true the "du" can be very offensive in such a context (just like "tu" in French, "ty" in Czech, and surely others. These three languages are very similar in the formal/informal you usage). It is actually a very common and annoying sign of disrespect and it is well known as a basic tool of racists, sexists, ageists, and others, such as teachers at high school (usually the good ones use the polite form only, and thus encourage people to mutual respect). I still find it interesting, how do the anglophones deal with learning this. Some people are tolerant to foreigners messing this up, some feel offended (well, I think those living in the country for a decade should learn the langauge and basic social norms too). But do the native English speakers feel about this the same way at the receiving end, after learning of it? Do you take it more like a rational info "this person is disrespectful towards me" or does it offend you emotionally too?

Based on my experience and knowledge, I wonder why did Systematiker get the "du" treatment. Just the accent seems like a weird "reason". But people will probably never stop surprising me.

Edit: corrected a mistake so stupid I've just remembered making it two hours ago.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby aokoye » Fri Sep 01, 2017 10:56 pm

Systematiker wrote:Just to stir the pot a bit, "Du kannst aber gut deutsch!" is, depending on situation, sometimes more of a microagression than you're giving it credit for, because most of the time if they're that surprised about it and you didn't meet in an informal enough context, it should have been "Sie können..."usw. You'll probably get it more than I did, but I remember a period when my accent was shifting (not identifiably anglophone, but still dentifiably foreign) and I got gedutzt way more often in inappropriate situations for it. Of course, depending on your comfort level, you can always call it out (which I did), even if it makes you look like a stickler (which I did :lol: ).

Oh trust me - I picked up the du vs sie thing too, sadly. This also was a very small part of a larger discussion that I was having this evening. Needless to say, I have yet one more example of more or less L1 black German speakers (in this case she came to Germany when she was 3 years old) who get the same thing said to them. Am I surprised? No.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby aokoye » Fri Sep 01, 2017 11:20 pm

Cavesa wrote:I still find it interesting, how do the anglophones deal with learning this. Some people are tolerant to foreigners messing this up, some feel offended (well, I think those living in the country for a decade should learn the langauge and basic social norms too). But do the native English speakers feel about this the same way at the receiving end, after learning of it? Do you take it more like a rational info "this person is disrespectful towards me" or does it offend you emotionally too?

Based on my experience and knowledge, I wonder why did Systematiker get the "du" treatment. Just the accent seems like a weird "reason". But people will probably never stop surprising me.

Edit: corrected a mistake so stupid I've just remembered making it two hours ago.

Learning the difference between du and Sie wasn't hard for me at all. Like not at all. That said I know that one would be able to find articles written on how easy or not it is for your average speaker of a non tu/vous language (in linguistics we use tu/vous in reference to that aspect any language regardless of whether or not it's French). I make more mistakes on kennen and wissen when speaking (which is an issue of it being ingrained - I know the rule which was also an easy one for me to grasp) than I do du/Sie. Do native English speakers (among other speakers whose L1 doesn't have the tu/vous distinction) feel offended and at how deep a level when they're being duzt in an arguably inappropriate manner? That's going to depend on the people involved and on the situation.

To put it bluntly because it's well past my bedtime, I know when people are being assholes towards me. I know when they're being racist, transphobic, xenophobic, and so on. The codes, verbal and nonverbal (especially nonverbal), are not that hard to read honestly. They it is hard for hard for people who haven't experienced racism to read those cues, but if that's what you've known your entire life then it's second nature (also a survival technique). I also know when they aren't. For example, no one in my host family's house used Sie with me and they didn't expect that I would do so with them (and not because I'm an L2 German speaker. We didn't have a conversation about it, it just was and I could figure it out both by listening to them and by their actions.

I suspect Systematiker got gedutzt because they knew he wasn't German. I get gedutzt sometimes because of that and because people are being racist. Or sometimes it's just one or the other, but really often it's both. Oppression, just like identities, can be and often is intersectional.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby Systematiker » Sat Sep 02, 2017 3:38 pm

Cavesa wrote:But do the native English speakers feel about this the same way at the receiving end, after learning of it? Do you take it more like a rational info "this person is disrespectful towards me" or does it offend you emotionally too?

Based on my experience and knowledge, I wonder why did Systematiker get the "du" treatment. Just the accent seems like a weird "reason". But people will probably never stop surprising me.


When I was certain from context that it was intended as an insult, I was pretty emotionally involved, but I was also pretty integrated. As for the why, well...

aokoye wrote:I suspect Systematiker got gedutzt because they knew he wasn't German. I get gedutzt sometimes because of that and because people are being racist. Or sometimes it's just one or the other, but really often it's both. Oppression, just like identities, can be and often is intersectional.


I got it way less with an anglophone accent. It wasn't just "not-German", it was usually what they thought I was instead. The exchanges usually went on, after my making mention of it, to a half-excuse about how "my language must make different distinctions", and then when I pointed out I'm American, "Oh, I thought you were Russian/Volgadeutsch/(insert other Eastern/Central European here)"

It was an interesting experience, as a white American male, to be the target of that.

And this is all aside from the class issues where people thought it was a chance to pull one over on the "Akademiker" that wouldn't know the different (but quite different from the "egalitarian Du", which was no problem).

What a mess, right, you learn two options and have 16 different social relations and usages... :lol: :lol:
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby Cavesa » Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:03 pm

I don't doubt you are more than proficient at recognising these situations, Aokoye. Thanks for your explanation.
Your friend living in Germany since childhood: are they living in a small town or a big city? Do you think that this distinction, pretty huge in some countries, is true in Germany or Austria as well, or is the situation more homogenous across the countries?

One question left, and it is probably one without an answer: If second language speakers of languages with tu/vous distinction correctly understand and emotionally process the whole issue (at least in most cases, as not even natives get it 100% right during their whole adult lives), why are so many failing at using the two even in rather basic and clear situations? Is it simply lack of trying? Relying too much on the tolerance towards foreigners? Or is it really one of the issues that is easy passively and hard actively, like some parts of grammar or vocab?

Systematiker wrote:I got it way less with an anglophone accent. It wasn't just "not-German", it was usually what they thought I was instead. The exchanges usually went on, after my making mention of it, to a half-excuse about how "my language must make different distinctions", and then when I pointed out I'm American, "Oh, I thought you were Russian/Volgadeutsch/(insert other Eastern/Central European here)"

It was an interesting experience, as a white American male, to be the target of that.

Welcome to this wonderful world :-D

It is very true people get treated differently based on the kind of accent. Any accent can be a blessing or a curse, it depends. That's why I am always trying to not only reduce the accent, but also try to make it more neutral :-D An accent like "a native from a different region" is the best I can do, and still not always.

Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to switch accents at will. You know, play a native German speaking French, or a native Italian speaking Czech. It could be fun and very educational. Basically a tiny sociologic experiment, where the only thing changing about the guinea pig would be the accent. Some people are good at this, I am definitely not. When such things happen to me (and they do, in my weaker languages, I was told my German sounded French and my Italian sounded definitely Spanish :-D ), it is not intentional.

What a mess, right, you learn two options and have 16 different social relations and usages... :lol: :lol:

16? Nope, there are many more in reality. But I still like this. I am not saying it is better or worse than the egalitarian English system (and Spanish seems to be shifting in the same direction), but it is definitely closer to my heart.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby MamaPata » Sun Sep 03, 2017 12:32 am

Cavesa wrote:One question left, and it is probably one without an answer: If second language speakers of languages with tu/vous distinction correctly understand and emotionally process the whole issue (at least in most cases, as not even natives get it 100% right during their whole adult lives), why are so many failing at using the two even in rather basic and clear situations? Is it simply lack of trying? Relying too much on the tolerance towards foreigners? Or is it really one of the issues that is easy passively and hard actively, like some parts of grammar or vocab?


In my experience, I don't massively have problems understanding when to use tu/vous (or equivalent), I have problems sticking with one when speaking fast and a lot, because in school we were almost always taught the informal form and that still comes more naturally. Or I have problems when I switch from a personal you to something that in English would be a general you. (E.g. "oh it really confuses me when you have to ..." Meaning a genwral trend, but after having asked the person personal questions) Then I confuse myself and just swap between them.

Really sorry to hear about the examples of people being deliberately rude and/or prejudiced.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby Systematiker » Sun Sep 03, 2017 12:43 am

Cavesa wrote:
One question left, and it is probably one without an answer: If second language speakers of languages with tu/vous distinction correctly understand and emotionally process the whole issue (at least in most cases, as not even natives get it 100% right during their whole adult lives), why are so many failing at using the two even in rather basic and clear situations? Is it simply lack of trying? Relying too much on the tolerance towards foreigners? Or is it really one of the issues that is easy passively and hard actively, like some parts of grammar or vocab?

Systematiker wrote:I got it way less with an anglophone accent. It wasn't just "not-German", it was usually what they thought I was instead. The exchanges usually went on, after my making mention of it, to a half-excuse about how "my language must make different distinctions", and then when I pointed out I'm American, "Oh, I thought you were Russian/Volgadeutsch/(insert other Eastern/Central European here)"

It was an interesting experience, as a white American male, to be the target of that.

Welcome to this wonderful world :-D

It is very true people get treated differently based on the kind of accent. Any accent can be a blessing or a curse, it depends. That's why I am always trying to not only reduce the accent, but also try to make it more neutral :-D An accent like "a native from a different region" is the best I can do, and still not always.

Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to switch accents at will. You know, play a native German speaking French, or a native Italian speaking Czech. It could be fun and very educational. Basically a tiny sociologic experiment, where the only thing changing about the guinea pig would be the accent. Some people are good at this, I am definitely not. When such things happen to me (and they do, in my weaker languages, I was told my German sounded French and my Italian sounded definitely Spanish :-D ), it is not intentional.

What a mess, right, you learn two options and have 16 different social relations and usages... :lol: :lol:

16? Nope, there are many more in reality. But I still like this. I am not saying it is better or worse than the egalitarian English system (and Spanish seems to be shifting in the same direction), but it is definitely closer to my heart.


16 was, of course, hyperbole, not a literal number. And I personally also find it refreshing to at least have some indication in the language rather than the way English relies on subtext to accomplish often the same thing.

I'm also admittedly privileged in that when I don't work on my accent, having an anglophone accent tends to get one more credit than others.

I know only a few people who genuinely refuse to use the proper t/v distinctions; rather than just making errors, they straight claim that since one version is easier to learn, everyone should accommodate them (obviously this is not in German).
Alternatively, though, I've known many Americans in many places who import the standard informality in conversation that they're used to without regard to the equivalent subtexts that t/v distinctions map to in English (if they're cognizant of them). Most of this usually gets written of as "bumbling American brashness", though some have been quite embarrassed when it was explained to them. I can easily imagine that some people are simply so arrogant that they assume their take on formality distinctions should dictate everyone else's behavior, and from US-folks, it's probably culturally ingrained American exceptionalism.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby Cavesa » Sun Sep 03, 2017 1:32 am

Systematiker wrote:I'm also admittedly privileged in that when I don't work on my accent, having an anglophone accent tends to get one more credit than others.

I guess it is balanced out by the amount of language bandits. I can always pretend I can't speak any English (even though my pride is an obstacle) :-D

I know only a few people who genuinely refuse to use the proper t/v distinctions; rather than just making errors, they straight claim that since one version is easier to learn, everyone should accommodate them (obviously this is not in German).
Alternatively, though, I've known many Americans in many places who import the standard informality in conversation that they're used to without regard to the equivalent subtexts that t/v distinctions map to in English (if they're cognizant of them). Most of this usually gets written of as "bumbling American brashness", though some have been quite embarrassed when it was explained to them. I can easily imagine that some people are simply so arrogant that they assume their take on formality distinctions should dictate everyone else's behavior, and from US-folks, it's probably culturally ingrained American exceptionalism.


Sure, since it is easier to learn, we should all also wear shoes without laces and not bother with forks and knives :-D I don't get those people.
But I can assure you the americans are definitely not the only ones with this "you should accommodate me" attitude. :-)

Yes, the formal and informal scale in English is sometimes difficult, as it is just context based and with a lot of guessing. It is, or at least used to be, a rather shocking and not that rare discovery for czechs going to the US, that the seemingly equal and close relations were in reality not equal or close at all. First they got amazed at how fast they became friends with people ("we use each other's first names! Even with my boss!"), and then they got very surprised how easily did those friends stop being friendly or how superficial those friendships were ("those superficial americans, they don't know what true friendship is. They only care about themselves"). So, the problem can definitely happen on both sides. I think we are more educated about the social norms and formal/informal scale these days, thanks to the movies and tvseries, therefore we are free to focus on more complex bits of cultural shock now. :-D
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby aokoye » Sun Sep 03, 2017 2:28 am

Cavesa wrote:I don't doubt you are more than proficient at recognising these situations, Aokoye. Thanks for your explanation.
Your friend living in Germany since childhood: are they living in a small town or a big city? Do you think that this distinction, pretty huge in some countries, is true in Germany or Austria as well, or is the situation more homogenous across the countries?

So I'm going to answer this bit because it's nearly 4:20am and I'm on the Ubahn back home after hanging outweigh someone from a conference I was just at for, not way too long, but way past my bedtime. My friend in grew up in Hamburg and when in Germany (she's spent a lot of time as an adult abroad) only chooses to spend time in large cities. I think that there is, in general, less racism in most large cities in the West than there is smaller cities because generally larger cities are not more liberal across the board. That said to assume there isn't racism in a large city is completely and utterly unrealistic.

Again I will also point out that there are a lot of subtle and not so subtle ways people voice their racism in the US when talking about the linguistic capabilities of native speakers of English who are people of color.

edit for a very important word - thanks auto correct
Last edited by aokoye on Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:44 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby aokoye » Sun Sep 03, 2017 3:07 am

So in other news, I hung out with a friend from the conference until just past 4am and it was lovely. We have a billion things in common including the fact that we should have both been asleep at 1am let alone 4am. Whats nice about Vienna is that their public transportation runs all night. Even nicer is that I had really good timing with the Ubahn.

Given that I have had no alone time I didn't get to write anything in German (though I did get in flashcards!). What I did successfully do was lead a group of 12 into a restaurant, tell the waitress that there were 12 of us, and then negotiate about table stuff (which wasn't a big deal at all in terms of her outward willingness to accommodate us), all in German. The whole thing was very amusing honestly.
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