jonathan franzen gave a reading last night at temporaer kunsthalle in berlin. as he studied german in school and spent at least one semester in germany, he attempted to do the reading in german. he read from the german edition of ‘the discomfort zone,’ which was originally released in the united states in 2006 or so.
as most english speaking people are self-assuredly monolingual, it was beyond impressive to see him take a stab at the language he majored in. should judgement be passed on him? his enunciation was actually pretty good. much better than the american guy in germany who writes for the wall street journal. and far better than chris burns, who works for bloomberg but used to work for cnn in france/germany/and poland and is routinely spotted with a translator when doing man-on-the-street interviews around germany. and the bit burns did on the paris riots back in 2005 was comical.
although we might give franzen a pointer. it could be a good idea to sometimes remember that in german the action comes at the end of the sentence rather than at the beginning. there is a funny joke about the european union and simultaneous translations. basically, someone is telling a joke and the translators tell the germans and scandinavians Someone is telling a joke. Laugh at the beginning of the sentence or they will think that you’re stupid.