Ryan and I are doing pretty well in our German these days. Someone told me my German is as fast as my English the other day, which was exciting. But little problems still remain. For example, when we were visiting friends in Berlin last weekend Ryan tried to order a "Kaninchen" of coffee. The waiter was very confused. Then Ryan remembered that he wanted a "Kännchen" (pot) not a "Kaninchen" (rabbit). We had a good laugh.
Another issue is whether to use the formal or informal "you." I wonder if native speakers of languages where there are two versions of "you" have an instinct for this? There are lots of support staff at the school where I work-- an army of schedulers, receptionists, etc. I like to speak German to them, to keep from getting rusty. In many German offices, co-workers use "du", the informal you. But not all. And older people can call younger people "du" but not always vice-versa. There are a few coworkers my age who I have "duzen"-ed with. (They asked me, "We can use 'du', right?" and of course I agreed.) The head receptionist of the school is a very nice older lady, and she always calls me "du" but I didn't know if I could call her "du" or "Sie." I always stuck to "Sie" to be on the safe side.
But yesterday as we were walking through the courtyard, she grabbed my bare leg and said "You're not wearing pantyhose, you must be freezing!" It was a little strange, but I've decided this is a sign that I can "duzen" her. What do you think? Are we friends now? We never have this problem in English!