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For some reason native English speakers always seem terribly nervous in case they make a mistake when speaking a foreign language. This will happen. It is inevitable and if you just accept it as part of the language learning progress and let your guard down you will make much quicker progress and learn from your mistakes. Put it this way the chances of you making the errors I made are very slim. I have made some absolute classic errors in each of the languages I speak and had I given up at the first hurdle I never would have progressed.

When I worked as cabin crew at British Airways in my twenties I spoke French, Spanish and Italian for the airline. Mainly due to the fact that my earning potential increased with each language I acquired I decided to learn German as the company was offering courses to those who wanted to learn it at the time. After a few lessons I was rostered onto a Frankfurt flight and one of my colleagues, Nadia was rostered to speak German. Nadia was completely bilingual as her mother was German and she wanted to help me improve my German as she knew how passionate about learning languages. I practised the small amount of German I had acquired throughout the flight offering people drinks and telling them their bag had to go under the seat in front of them. Nadia obviously thought my skills were somewhat better than they actually were and invited me to speak over the PA to all the passengers on arrival in Frankfurt. I insisted I didn’t feel I was ready however she insisted. I thought it can’t be that bad as I just had to read from the script. So when we landed into Frankfurt Main airport I welcomed everyone in my best German, told them the local time and reminded them “to shit themselves when opening the overhead lockers” then thanked them for flying with British Airways.

Initially I was unaware of my faux pas until I looked up the cabin and saw all the German passengers shoulders moving up and down and they were all laughing loudly. I turned to ask Nadia why everyone was laughing and she looked at me in absolute horror and said “You have just told them all to shit themselves when opening the overhead locker” Instead of saying ‘vorsichtig’ I had said ‘vorsheißtig.’