Okay, so I realize that it’s a bit ironic writing this post in English on a German newspaper but here goes. OF COURSE the Germans are better at English than we are at German. Of course they are. I could give you a million examples. In my English Literature A-Level class, we did The Go-Between. I would never say it was a shit book, but fucking hell, it is pretty easy. When I arrived here in Germany aged 20, I became friends with a German girl who was doing her English Abitur. THEY WERE DOING HAMLET AND DISCUSSING IT IN ENGLISH IN THEIR LESSONS AND BEING FORCED TO LEARN HUGE CHUNKS OF IT OFF BY HEART. My first few weeks in Germany were just such humiliation for me. Back home, in England, I had been led to believe that I was some kind of sprachbegabte linguistical genius (I’d won medals! A German doctor on the Tube was so impressed that I could speak German he told me I’d go far in life! Und so weiter!) and I arrived in Germany and realized that almost everyone could speak English as good as my German. Grannies, homeless people, punks, bus drivers. A Motzverkäufer told me to have a nice day and I literally lost the will to live.
However – Überraschung! German people do actually speak German to each other. They do actually have magazines and newspapers and books that are published in German. They do actually like reading things that have been written in their own language. Their English skills are a plus, they haven’t stopped speaking German altogether. German is a language people speak in Germany.
The way the UK press – and people on Twitter – even Remainers – are describing the FAZ printing an article in German as „ultimate trolling“ or „really subtle shade“ just tells you fucking volumes about Britain’s attitude towards Europe and the EU. No wonder they wanted out of the European Union, if they think the only reason people would bother to not write a really complicated political article in English would be to provoke British people. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a relative recently. I told him my son had to improve his grades in German. He said, totally surprised: „What? But he can speak German!“ I said: „Yeah, but you got a D in English, didn’t you?“ And then he was totally gobsmacked: „You mean the Germans learn German like how English people learn English?“ He asked. „Do they read like the German version of Shakespeare and stuff?“
Britain is one country in Europe. And English is one language out of thousands. I am not gonna lie, I am as lazy as the next native English speaker. At parties and stuff, as I get steadily more drunk, I’ll take advantage of how good Germans‘ English skills are and just let the evening slide complacently into one conducted chiefly in my own mother tongue. And I don’t even bother correcting bar staff who speak to me in English anymore – I used to fight it out, but now I just say, oh right, a deposit on the bottle? Okay. I’m lazy and I know I am. But German people speaking German is not trolling. Oh, and by the way: that Tony Parsons is a right cunt.