Sprackenzie Deutsche?

We don't all need the German language to make us look stupid. Jimmy, for instance, only remembered that the person he had spent ten minutes writing a lengthy postcard to was actually deceased when he tried to remember their address. I, on the other hand, am finding the German language to be perfect for making me look like a twat.

My standard approach is to perform a half wince mixed with an embarrassed, yet cheeky smile so that I don't catch my target unawares. Then I hit them with my German bazooka.

"Sprakenzie Englische?" I say, with my voice reaching pre-pubescent levels as I reach the ische bit.

Normally this works perfectly and the friendly German does a sort of wobble from the shock of my fluent Deutsch and then replies, "a little bitt..." with the word bit again scaling lofty musical heights.

This morning it didn't work so well. It was 7am and I was using the canoe club showers. The place was deserted and I was trying hard not too look at my tan in the full length mirror. Then the door burst open.

I stood there. Starkers. Brown from the top of my afro to the bottom of my belly , a few tan lines, and then brown all over again. (I tried hard not looking at that tan.) For a fleeting second I presented this beautiful sight as a second and full English breakfast to the cleaning lady. Then she closed the door.

Unfortunately, she also started speaking in very fast and very German German. I immediately replied with my trusted phrase. However, this time the whole phrase was at pre-pubescent echelons and not just the questioning last bit.

All I could make out from her own very high pitched German was the word Klein. And the only rational explanation that came to my mind was that she thought I was Mr Calvin Klein, an underwear model visiting her canoe club.

It turned out she was the cleaner. And the cleaning cupboard was in the male changing room. And so I tried to apply German efficiency to getting changed in front of the cleaner.

Other entanglements with the German language I feel I have smoothed over with customary charm.

We stopped in a small town having seen a museum from the river. The sign said Museum Geoffnet. We went into town and there was a sign that said Cafe Geoffnet and the Tourist Information was also named after this famous Geoffnet geezer.

A couple of days later we were being hosted by a lovely German woman. Having noticed that the milk also said the word Geoffnet next to the lid, I attempted to show some German cultural awareness by explaining how we had visited the town where this famous entrepreneur had been born.

Our host, looking bemused as only a German can, informed me that the word 'geoffnet' meant 'open'. I nodded knowingly.

My most recent error occurred when I tried to simultaneously impress two fellow canoeists with both my linguistic skills and also my canoeing ability.

They had definitely asked a question. I definitely wasn't sure what it was. Improvising, I replied 'Istanbul' with a smug smile that said "Yes, you heard right. Istanbul. I'm that bigger a dog in the canoeing world."

Then they pointed at their wrists where a German normally finds his watch. They also said the word 'time', in English, very slowly.

I told Jimmy just to keep paddling. Hopefully it will catch on: you've got tea time, bed time, Chico time and now Istanbul time.

Don't worry though, in a couple of weeks we'll be finished with Germany and I can try learning some Austrian.