So, your mother tongue is English? Well, you have a big advantage because English is spoken by many many people. And the Germans may not be as good as the Dutch or Scandinavians, however, you can do whatever you want to do in Germany using English in Germany.
This big advantage is also your biggest enemy. And I would like to invite you to read this blog post from the non-profit organisation Historic Highlights of Germany e.V. Wow! We German really do speak English very well. Although, in that article it says “the younger generation, which I would qualify as anyone 40 years old or younger” speaks very well. Hmm, that excludes me. What a pity!
When paying close intention to writer of this post you will discover that he does not speak German (or very little, that is). And he claims that one can speak English in Germany wherever one wants to. So, my conclusion would be:
No. You shouldn’t do that. And I am saying this for two reasons. First, I would like the occasional business or leisure traveller to refrain from learning German and hence save a lot of time. (I will share a secret here: I was just struggling with a word. I didn’t know whether to choose hence, therefore or thus. Anyway, hence seems the best choice. What do you think?) Well, some simple words such as ‘danke’ (thanks) or ‘Guten Morgen’ (good morning), ‘Guten Tag’ (good day or good afternoon) and ‘Guten Abend’ (good evening) are not really helpful but rather polite. One sentence that I would definitely learn in any language is ‘Excuse me. I don’t speak … Do you speak English?’. That sentence will break the ice. Believe me.
Yes. That’s the biggest mistake. Which mistake, you are asking? Well, I have just described it. You have forgotten to say the most important sentence: ‘Excuse me. I don’t speak German. Do you speak English?’ Always, always ask that question.
You are a foreigner, remember? And we German are not as hospitable as …, well as …, say, Americans. So, we don’t like people who visit our country and feel at home. Just like that. No. But if you break the ice but just saying one single sentence in German. Wow. That’s it. I mean, it is breaking the ice. Just remember that one … for the rest of the countries you are going to visit, and not only Germany.
This one is not so obvious. And most people would not be able to frame it as a mistake. English native speakers assume that everybody speaks English in Germany. So, they start out in English. Yes, that was the biggest mistake number one. Here is a variation of mistake number one: Once you speak German, do NOT use English words.
Yes, that is weird. Let’s say, I am a native English speaker and I am in Germany. And I want to say: May I see the room, please? Unfortunately I don’t know the word for ‘room’. So, I say: Kann ich das ‘room’ sehen, bitte. Wow! That sentence is wrong. And I even applied the English word order in the German sentence. And that is not such a big problem. The big mistake is using the English word ‘room’ instead of the German word ‘Zimmer’.
Just learn this simple rule: When speaking German, speak German. Okay, so what are you going to do in this situation when you have to admit that you don’t know the German word for ‘room’?