I had the joy of visiting Germany this week for a very brief, but very wonderful, trip to attend a friends’ wedding. It was awesome; great weather, great company, great food (German food is my FAVOURITE of all) and so much dancing I developed blisters on the soles of my feet.
I love that country and I don’t visit it nearly enough, especially as I am half-German myself and look it, apparently.
Thanks to my Germanic looks, my height and my blonde(ish) hair, I was presumed to be German and was frequently asked to translate. Guests at the wedding assumed I could speak German. Market traders and shop keepers looked astounded when I said I could speak very little of their language. “Ah, but…” then a pause, a wave of the hand to take in my face, hair, my Helga-esque wide shoulders, and a look of disbelief tipped with disappointment.
For all my Germanic heritage I can speak very little of the language itself. The one phrase I know fluently is of absolutely no use: “Ach, nein, Flipps ist mein Kaninchen.” Never, in all my years, have I had to explain that Flipps is, in actual fact, my rabbit. I don’t even have a rabbit.
Being asked to translate gives me feeling similar to the one I get when asked what I do.
I’m a writer.
But my novel is not yet published…
And no, I don’t technically earn any money…
And I don’t have an agent, yet…
I am German, yet I do not speak the language.
I am a writer, though you cannot read my work.
One may almost get downhearted. And one does, quite often. Too often.
And this is when you need the delightful input of sympathetic folk. Be it a stranger in Frankfurt, who, after mistaking me for a German-speaker, said very kindly “Ah, but you still have time to learn!”
Or a close friend, normally so cynical, saying to me this week after another agent requested my full manuscript: “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ you’ll get published anymore: it’s just a matter of when.”