Saturday, February 11, 2006


So yesterday I finally faced a big fear of mine - and survived. This fear has plagued me a for a while now, so of course, the anxiety level surrounding this seemingly innocuous task had mounted to semi-epic proportions. (Okay, maybe not semi-epic, but I embellish for effect.)

I made my first doctors appointment. In German. By myself! Now, I will admit, I had already tried to make an appointment with another doctor, but had to abandon the mission when the woman on the other end of the phone started asking me questions for which I had no answer because I didn't understand a word she was saying. I didn't hang up on her - thankfully my friend V was sitting there with me for moral (and linguistic) support, and so I just passed the phone to her when I started hyperventilating and she completed the appointment for me.

I still had another problem: I needed to make another appointment. So, with the old aphorism about 'getting back on the horse' in mind, I decided to try again later that day. (Also, my friend S tracked me down and made me come to her office and do it.) I tried a different approach this time: I would be on the offensive - I wouldn't give them any opportunity to ask me any questions. So here is a transcript* (with English translation):

Phone rings, and is finally answered.

Woman: Guten tag. Schlafen guten moechte praxis werden guten schlafen. (ok, this is German gibberish, as I have no idea what she actually said after 'guten tag'.)

Me: Er, guten tag. Frau Millan hier. Ich moechte ein termin mit Dr. Neiss machen. Bitte. (Good day. Ms. Millan speaking. I would like to make an appointment with Dr. Neiss. Please.) (I always forget to put the please in the middle of the sentence, and therefore add it at the end. )

Woman: Blah blah blah....schon mal bei uns? (Blah blah blah...been here before?)

Me: Diese ist mein erste mal. (This is my first time.)

Woman: Blah blah blah... (Blah blah blah...)

Me: (beginning to get flustered) Er, entschuldigung, ich spreche ein bisschen deutsch, und verstehe ein bisschen deutsch auch. (Er, excuse me, I only speak a little German, and understand only a little also.)

Woman: (Laughs, not unkindly.) Oh, ich spreche ein bisschen englisch. Ich spreche langsamme. (Oh, I only speak a little English. I will speak slowly.)

We both laugh. I try to continue in German.

Me: Ich spreche langsamme auch. Ein frage. Haben sie ein termin acht April? (I will speak slowly also. A question. Do you have an appointment for eight April?)

Woman: Nicht for 8 Samstag. (Not for eight April,'s a Saturday.) (Doh. I wasn't reading the calendar correctly. In case you are wondering, I asked for a date in April because I knew that the GYN didn't have any appts in Feb or Mar.)

Me: Ach, tur mir leid. Sieben April? (Ach, sorry. Seven April?)

Woman: Ja, um wie viel Uhr? (Yes, what time?)

Me: Neun Uhr? (Nine o'clock?)

Woman: Ja, in ordnung. (Yes, all is fine.)

Me: Haben sie andere frage fuer mich? (Do you have any other questions for me?) (I was praying not...)

Woman: (Laughs.) Nein, alles in ordnung. (No, all is fine.)

Me: Ok, vielen dank for dein hilfe. (Ok, thank you so much for your help.)

We both laugh, then hang up.

I was so pleased with myself for having done this successfully (I say successfully because I actually ended up with an appt!). This is an example of what I have found here - if you try to speak German to people, even if you do it poorly, they will most likely be very accomodating - they do appreciate the effort. I always try to begin conversations in German, but my problem is that when they start talking back to me, it's too quick for me, and I also don't have the vocabulary/grammar to understand what they are saying, so things deteriorate really quickly. In person, I can rely on elaborate hand gestures. But speaking on the phone is a whole other ball of wax (what does that phrase actually mean???). However, I was very lucky to have someone very nice on the phone with me, and her speaking slowly was a big bonus. (Mom, I hope you are happy - I'm finally going to the doctor!!)

* some of what she said was reconstructed with the help of F. My grammar in this conversation is not correct, but this is how I said everything.


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