Friday, June 23, 2006


Bavaria. It’s a whole other country. They speak different. It must be what it is like for a non-English speaker arriving in Newcastle and trying to reconcile the impenetrable Geordie dialect with the language they have been getting the hang of further south, or have learned in school.

I did German in school myself, and having been using those long rusted linguistic tools to get me by if necessary. Not that it often is, of course, given the proficiency of most Germans in English. But between that and watching the commentary and analysis of the football on TV (which is a useful language learning technique, as precisely the same stuff is said about football no matter what the language. You’re only watching England a few minutes when you make out “pretty good touch for a big man” after Peter Crouch’s first involvement) you find you start getting the hang of it.

And then you get to Bavaria.

Not a chance. Overhearing a conversation between a waitress and a guy at another table in a bar last night was like eavesdropping in Moscow or Tehran. The clear tones of the Ruhr Valley are seemingly completely unrelated to the language you hear, rolling and gargling as the order is taken.

The analogy with the north of England stops at dialectal complexity, however. Ingolstadt, the town we stayed in last night, is seriously affluent, being the home of a stupendous Audi factory. The car manufacturer employs about a fifth of the town’s 100,000 or so people.

Two of my fellow travellers spent a summer here ten years ago working in the Audi factory (hence our stopover in this unremarkable town) and spend the evening recounting youthful high jinks and the escapades on the production line.

Then, in the same night club they went to all those years ago, one of them meets the guy who is doing the exact same job as my friend did as a 19-year old student: namely, putting in the little triangular window thingy in the back seat doors.

Obviously it’s a beautiful moment. It’s a shame Audi aren’t one of the main sponsors of the World Cup actually. Talk about “a Time to Make Friends”? This is like meeting the brother he never knew he had; photos are taken, discussions ensue with furrowed brow as to the problems inherent with the little window thingy and its future, laughs are shared over certain idiotic supervisors still there, invitations to Dublin are issued and accepted.

So there you go then. Across the boundary of language and dialect comes understanding and friendship….through the triangular window thingy in Audi cars. Who’d have thought it?


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