A few weekends ago we visited a some friends for a cookout. It was probably the last possibility for a cookout as we were bundled up and a little bit cold while we ate our bratwurst and at 5pm it was already getting dark.
On these types of occasions, people speak mostly German and a little bit of English when they need to speak to me about something specific. I get to listen a lot and sometimes practice or learn a few new words. This particular evening I heard a phrase again and again, “Keine Ahnung.” (phonetically: kai-na Ah-nung) I know enough from school to know that keine means “No,” “none” or “a lack of something.” But “Ahnung” I didn’t recognize. Finally I asked. “Was ist Ahnung?” “Keine ahnung” they replied, “means no idea.” “Aha!” I thought. Now more things made sense. Once I knew what it meant I heard it over and over again. (At least 20 times in the evening.)
The exciting part of this is that now I know enough words to pick out the one or two I don’t know and ask. Not all the time of course–if a sentence has more than three words I don’t know than I most likely have no idea what the conversation is about. Honestly, at these moments I just give myself a break and think about something else, but when I’m able to follow and only miss a few words, I can actually ask for clarification. This is a major milestone.
I joked to Thorsten on the way home, “Wow, either you guys were discussing some tough stuff or you and your friends have “no idea” about anything.” He laughed and then said, “Or, maybe this is something about German people–maybe they don’t like to comment on things unless they really know about them, so they just say “no idea.”
“Hmmm,” I thought, “Keine ahnung.”