I ask this question at least once a day.
It’s totally necessary!
My German vocabulary isn’t growing as well as I would like (because I haven’t been working on it as much as I would like), but even still, it’s going to be a long time before I can carry out a true conversation in Deutsch. In the mean time, I mentally cross my fingers and ask this question in the hopes that we can converse in broken English instead of nonexistent German.
Most of the time it works. Business people here know English because of work. People in hospitality know English because Basel caters to a lot of international travelers. It’s taught in school, so many people my age and younger have at least a working knowledge of the language.
Sometimes it doesn’t though.
Please excuse my typo! It’s killing me to post this tweet for that reason.
When IKEA called the first time to tell us they were on their way, Andy was able to muddle through because we know numbers, so he could say when he would meet them.
When Andy was stuck in tram traffic and IKEA beat him to the apartment? It was a little more difficult for me to explain.
So many words in English and German are similar. You know what words aren’t similar?
I knew that Andy was stuck in traffic, but I didn’t know exactly where and I didn’t know how long it would take him to get from where he was to the apartment, so I couldn’t use my numbers and the word “Minuten.” I just repeated myself a lot and asked them to please wait (“Bitte?”) and hoped for the best.
(Since I was on my phone, I couldn’t access my Google Translate app and my laptop was already packed. Oops!)
Luckily it worked. While some other aspects of the IKEA delivery didn’t go as smoothly as we might have liked, at least they didn’t just leave with a truck full of our new furniture.
This did convince me further of my need to learn German, no matter how many people here do sprechen Englisch.