17 November 2018

Language Learning: Disaster in a German Kitchen

Scene from Rothenburg, not far from my university in Würzburg.

Early on, when I was learning German, I got a part time job. 
It was at the university kitchen in Bochum, Germany. 

I figured it would be a good way to practice my German.


They had tens of thousands of students. 
I worked the lunch shift, 12–3:00.

My job was "Trays". 
Placing lunch trays on a conveyor belt. 

Over and over.

I must have done a good job. 

After a few days, I was promoted to "Sauce". 
I poured sauce over the meat, with a ladle.

This ladle had a VERY long handle. 
The sauce cart was on wheels. 
It was about a meter deep. 

I had a pretty good rhythm going. 
Suddenly - I DROPPED the ladle into the sauce.

Deep. Gone.

Now what?

I wasn't going to reach down in there. 
And: I didn’t know how to say “ladle” in German.

(The German word for ladle, by the way, is Schöpflöffel.
-Even if I KNEW it, I couldn't pronounce it.)

So I did nothing. 

I hoped no one would notice.

Pretty soon, the students began to complain. 
The whole system—conveyor belt, trays, meat, sauce, veggies— stopped. 

They traced the problem back to me. 

I stood there, feeling pretty stupid. 

So they gave me a clean ladle, and a few dirty looks. 
A LOT of grumbling. In German. 

Soon - everything started up again.

But the next day, I was back to "Trays".



- Not exactly a stellar career move. Even if I did learn the word for ladle.


(From the book - Meanwhile, Back in Los Ranchos -)