Do I plan on learning German? No. In fact I make a point to say “thankyou” instead of “danke”. I’m using it as an apology, as in: “sorry if I appeared simple in the previous conversation; I only speak English”.
A few people are disappointed by this… they’d appreciate it if I actually made the effort. There is one thing I’d love to improve though: my pronunciation. Think of all of the boilerplate you use: ordering at a restaurant, you just need to say the name of the food; taking a taxi, you just need the address. Pronounce those word correctly and you’re gold.
Most of the German I can read I’ve picked up from context. [Disclaimer: this is my interpretation and definitions are most likely imprecise] Words like strasse, allee, tor, and platz are all on street signs for streets, ways, circles, and squares. The prefixes ein and aus are used for beginnings and ends, entrances and exits. I can even read signs for “don’t block the fire lane”, not that I need to know that.
I know many different words for meat so that I can avoid it. Menus have a pretty standard vocabulary that make them easy for context learning. You know you’re going to see common groups: hot drinks, tap beer, bottle beer. You’ll also see portion sizes: klein, mittel, and grosse.
Hmm… looking back, a post on first semester German isn’t that interesting. I guess the key take away is this: if you ever find yourself down and out in Germany, look for the nearest exit. It will be labeled ausgang or ausfahrt and mispronouncing those words just warms my heart.