Skip to content ↓
MIT student blogger Hamsika C. '13

Ich Spreche Kein Deutsch. by Hamsika C. '13

Apparently that's how you say "I don't speak German"...not that I would know.

In general, it would be considered a good idea to know more than just two words of the language native to the country you’ll be traveling to. This would seem an even better idea when you’ll be spending six weeks in said country, which in my case would be Germany.

Too bad I don’t know any German. Not kidding: I just googled ‘how to say good-bye in German.’ Google Translate, I love you. (Edit: Actually, I don’t. Considering the number of mistakes that were pointed out to me…)

I’ve also been spending a lot of time on this site, cramming various scraps of information in my head and hoping it’ll be enough for when I land in Frankfurt Airport with no idea where anyone or anything is.

Despite my complaints and lack of German eloquence, however, I’m truly looking forward to my trip to Deutschland. I’m going with four other girls as part of a MISTI (MIT Science and Technology Initiatives) program called Highlights for High Schools . The five of us will be teaching at various schools all over Germany, using curriculums we designed earlier this year. In just over a week, I’ll be able to tell how much bio and physics I managed to retain from freshman year; I’m pretty sure these last two weeks – spent relaxing at home, re-reading the Harry Potter books, and playing frisbee pretty much every day – haven’t helped on the retention front.

In addition to holding lessons, the other girls and I hope to do quite a bit of sight-seeing. We especially have our eyes set on the Neuschwanstein Castle:

Isn’t it beautiful?

And I really want to do a segway tour of Berlin, though I’d probably fall off the segway:


At the end of the trip, I might even get to hop over to another country for a litttle while:

Look familiar?

To summarize ~
(1) Ahhh, I get to go to Europe for the first time in my life!
(2) Teaching’s funnn.
(3) German chocolate? Yes, please.
(4) MISTI pays for it all :)

Thanks to the wonderful Erin who works in the MIT-Germany office, I’ll have housing, food, a stipend, and a fantabulous experience – one that’ll certainly need some blogging!

Until another time – Auf Wiedersehen!

P.S. On an unrelated note, I watched How to Train Your Dragon today, and now I really want a dragon. I also watched Shrek Forever After, though, so if I can’t get a dragon, I’d be willing to accept a donkey-dragon hybrid. Just saying.

37 responses to “Ich Spreche Kein Deutsch.”

  1. Ammar says:

    Going to a foreign country not knowing the language is quite an adventure, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine ^_^
    I always fancied the idea of teaching Physics, though besides the few lessons I gave my junior class in nuclear physics I haven’t had that much experience.
    Tip: a few pieces of well-placed Physics trivia make the lesson much more interesting, and those are easy to pick up on the net (Wikipedia usually does the trick).

    This post reminded me of a friend in Frankfurt I haven’t talked to in a while, I’ll have to email him sometime.

    Buckingham Palace? Wow! I’m told transportation within Europe is easy, though I’m not sure that applies to England. last time I was there the Buckingham state rooms were only open for visitors during August.
    Strangely enough, for a second I almost thought it was Versailles.

    Good luck on your trip, keep us posted.

  2. Ich liebe deine post!
    have fun in Germany !!
    p.s. Google translate ROCKS !!!

  3. It would actually be, “Ich weisses nicht Deutsch”
    Eat so much bread. Much of it. EAT A PRETZEL.

  4. Hamsika '13 says:

    @ Ammar – thanks for the physics tip! it’s a great idea – i’m going to do it smile

    @ Claudia – HAHA. shows how much i know. i’ll change it – thanks!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Protip: Don’t go on a Segway tour. Ever.

  6. Armin says:

    Can’t you survive with English in Germany?

    Nice looking castle, Hogwarts’ sister…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hello! My German is a little rusty but I learned it at the Defense Language Institute. Anyway, “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” looks correct. “Deutsch” is a neutered noun (not male or female)which translates “German”. Therefore, it literally means “I speak no German”. If you used “wissen” which translates “to know” then you would say “Ich weiss nicht Deutsch” which means “I don’t know German”. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Simply speak the language the best you can and most people will understand what you are trying to say. I found that many Germans like to practice their English but if you only speak English while you are in Germany then you’ll never get the chance to speak German with those that know the language. Have fun! Eat a Pretzel (Bretzel)outside the train station in Heidelberg. Definitely see the Neuschwanstein Castle near Garmisch. It’s gorgeous!

  8. karl says:

    German people also never say lebenwohl.

    It’s usually better to just stick to the traditional “Auf Wiedersehen” (AKA See you later)

  9. Hamsika '13 says:

    lol – thanks for editing, guys smile

  10. Anonymous says:

    German guy here – “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” is definitely most adequate here

  11. Anonymous says:

    Which schools are you going to be visiting? I was on the International School of Bremen until a few weeks ago (graduation tomorrow, yay).. Are you going to be anywhere near Bremen?

  12. Cody '14 says:

    I think Claudia meant weiss, which is the word for white but also means know. So “Ich weiss nicht Deutsch” would literally translate (word for word) to “I know not German.” I don’t really see why Ich spreche kein Deutsch (I speak no German) would be wrong, but I probably would have said Ich spreche Deutsch nicht (I soeack German not).

  13. Liz '14 says:

    That’s really awesome; I hope I get to do something similar while I’m at MIT.

  14. Daphne says:

    OMG Hamsika!

    This is a wonderful opportunity!!!…Not to mention the fun you’ll have. Make the most of it. Njoy your summer! grin grin grin

  15. niki says:

    So where exactly are you gonna be in the first week-or-so? I spent the last year here and would be happy to show you around from an not-quite-native’s side, or to put you in contact with someone who would. =)

    @ Anonymous from IUB: not sure what the chances are, but do you know a Vlad in compsci, also graduating?

  16. I’m also in Germany with MISTI, working at Deutsche Bahn in Frankfurt.

    You can get around OK in Germany with English. Almost everybody under 30-40 speaks English fairly well. And by fairly well I mean similar to how you or I would speak German. A few conjugation mistakes here or there, missing phrases, etc. Correct, no. Understandable, yes.

    I did a Segway tour in China (also with MIT). It is a lot of fun to do once, especially if you are in a more open area. We used the rugged version of the Segway and went down a dirt path. You can get the thing going fairly fast. I don’t know if you can get the same experience in a city. The US would be even worse with all of the liability issues….. One side effect is that you will want to buy a Segway. That is, until you see the price tag.

  17. Hania says:

    Haha, that’s cool :D
    You see, you’re first time in Europe – and I live in Poland, just 100 km from Germany wink Funny thing.
    And, I think that better will be: “Ich spreche keine Deutsch” (not “kein”). And this is the best way to say that – not with “wissen” as someone above said.

    Have a great time! smile

  18. Jony says:

    I’m actually German and I can definitely guarantee that it’s “Ich spreche (leider) kein Deutsch”. With “leider” [pron.: lie + da] it’s more polite.
    Besides, nobody says: “Lebewohl!” (Except it is the last time ever you see the person you’re speaking to). *lol*
    To say “Auf Wiedersehen” or simply “Wiedersehen” is rather formal. To young people you say: “Tsch√ºss” (pronounced like “juice” with the typical German √º-sound instead of ui; or the Italian word “ciao”. I bet you’ll get to hear it all the time.
    BTW: Segways are great fun smile And you most definitely have to try “Kinder Milchschnitte” (best candy ever, cold from the fridge).

  19. Anonymous says:

    C’mon people, check something before you write !! raspberry∈=&l=deen
    Its DAS Deutsch, not DIE.. So it must be “kein” not “keine”..

    And I thought the “Lebenwohl” thing was a joke ;p (Lebenwohl is “goodbye” indeed, but with the meaning of “farewell”)
    Greetings from Poland, he he he wink

  20. Anonymous says:

    Actually, your sentence is now conjugated incorrectly smile The first-person singular of “wissen” (to know) is “wei√ü.” Also, the best way to say that you don’t speak German is “Ich spreche kein Deutsch.” Have an awesome summer – Neuschwanstein is beautiful!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the person above me smile What on earth “weisses” is ? :D
    And you know I really think you should at least try to learn german – it has certain grammar rules, but very few exceptions. Besides the grammar rules are simple. The only problem is that the words are difficult to learn, but on the other hand, they’re easy to hear once you’ve learnt them.
    And finally, knowing just a little grammar will allow you to use dictionaries instead of google translator (who likes to make idiots of us wink ) and thus avoid stupid mistakes raspberry
    Just saying wink

  22. Latha says:

    Liebe Hamsika, Guntag ! I lived in Berlin for 3 years and I love the city and the people. Ich habe einbissien deutsch gelernt. I’ll teach you something to remember numbers from 1-10.
    Eins, Zwei polizei
    Drei Vier officier
    Fu(i)nf, Sechs alte hex
    Sieben, Acht gute nacht
    Neun, Zehn schlafen gehen !
    You can sing this to your fiends before going to bed smile
    Don’t miss the beautiful palaces and wonderful museums of Berlin.
    Viel spass…tchu(i)s !
    P.S. I’d like to quote the famous words of JFK when he visited Berlin which Germans still remember fondly – ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’

  23. Anonymous says:

    @ niki: sorry, you got it mixed up, I’m from the ISB, the highschool, not IUB, the university.. so nope, sorry don’t know him

  24. Anon says:

    “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” is correct German. However, if you want to sound like you do not know German and telegraph it, the best way to indicate it is to say “Ich speche Deutsche nicht”. That will get attention and help.

    A useful tip: Take translations of the favorite dishes you want to eat in a cheatsheet. A lot of restaurant workers are not fluent in anything but German.

  25. genius ('18) says:

    Dragon, donkey-dragon…whatever wink
    I’ve been to Germany a lot of times. Although it’s nice to know German, Frankfurt should be fine for an English speaker. Neuschwanstein Castle sounds FUUUN! Apparently it was built by a mad king. You might find some dragons there…

    PS: Correct me if I’m wrong, but ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’ has a double meaning. It means both “I am a jelly doughnut”, as the legend says, but it also means “I am a Berliner!”.

    ReCaptcha: joust Full-scale

  26. Amethyst says:

    Whoo! Have awesome loads of fun!! My family and I lived in Germany for a year once, near Wurzburg (spelling optional). And my best friend lives there now. Things to remember:
    1)EAT the ice cream!! It is amazingly good, especially mint chocolate. smile
    2)DO NOT EAT the Italian food unless there are actual Italians visible in the kitchen. Same goes for all cakes and tortes–they are purely decorative. Pastries and bread are yummy, though.
    3)The airport at Frankfurt is scary but navigable.
    4)If you get to England, remember to not accidentally use Euros to try and buy things. You get really weird looks…
    5)Pigeons at Trafalgar Square in London are very friendly, but wait until the policemen are looking the other way before you feed them ^_^

    Have fun, Hamsika! Eat some brotchen for me!

    @Jony-Isn’t Tchuss mostly used in Southern Germany?

  27. question '14 says:

    hey so this may sound like a stupid question but how are you supposed to submit your photo id to mit? all it says on the website is just “submit” with no intructions

  28. Hamsika '13 says:

    @ question ’14 – go to this website:

    click ‘to be included’ and then fill out the form/upload a photo smile

    lol, the picture i submitted last year got rejected :( so i had to take one when i got on campus, haha.

  29. Anonymous says:

    when does NBM come?

  30. Actually, a “Berliner” is a kind of donut. If you wanted to say “I am from Berlin”, you would say “Ich bin Berliner”, I believe.
    Yay! Deutschland! Deutschland ist sehr schoen und ich wuensche, dass ich einmal da reisen kann.
    This is such a cool opportunity from MIT! Where can we find out more about MISTI?

  31. Hamsika '13 says:

    Thanks for all your tips, guys smile

    @ MolesPerLiter – here, check this out:

  32. Thanks!
    @Amethyst: Oh my gosh! I have a friend (and I live in the US) who was born in Wurzburg! smile

  33. 167 sd 15 says:

    sorry i was away for so long. the email i send you was my old address, so it wouldn’t have worked. try [email protected]

  34. Anonymous says:

    hamsika, may be a good idea to check out the local bar culture – german exchange students who lived with us for a year in boston – felt america was too conservative – ‘coz in germany you can go to the bar even when you are 14 old while here you have to hunt for a fake id first – LOL!

    Please visit the rural Bavaria if you get a chance – it is beautiful – locals call them villages…

  35. Anonymous says:

    Other things to do

    1. Try to take the ICE (intercity train) from frankfurt to paris – you’ll see all the beautiful country side if you have the time.

    2. Also visit one of the car factories – Mercedes (close to franfurt) or BMW or Audi (ingolstadt) – if you get the chance

    3. I don’t like german beer, but may be good to put a – been there done it – check mark to that!

  36. Have a great summer! im sad i didnt get into MIT, but i enjoyed reading all of your blogs. you’re the best!!