I started learning the German language in Middle School, eighth grade to be exact. I loved German class even more than I thought I would. After all of this time, I still remember some of the conversation examples used in the book, like
“Wo ist Monika?” (Where is Monika?)
“Im Boot.” (In the boat.)
“Wo ist der Hut?” (Where is the hat?)
“In der Stube.” (In the living room.)
(Truly not literary masterpieces, but they helped us learn.)
The following year I was a High School freshman in German II class and I was able to compete at the state level. (Yes, a state-level German competition.) Categories in the competition were both language-based (Extemporaneous Speaking, Poetry Recitation, Writing) as well as non-language-based (Art, Music, Baking). I was totally into it, and by my Junior year (I was in German IV class), I entered as many competition categories as my event schedule would allow.
In those days, my plan was to go to college and major in German, and eventually become a translator. In the end, I didn’t do that: I ended up changing my major to Elementary Education and let the German go in favor of something that made more sense (to me, anyway) for someone who wanted to be married with children, living in one place. I never could have imagined the arc that the German language and Germany itself would actually take, over the course of my life.
As I have learned, you can take the girl out of German, but you can’t take German out of the girl. (Or something like that.) I was really excited when D decided to choose German to fulfill his high school foreign language requirement, and then three years later, J followed suit. I was the go-to gal when they needed homework help, until eventually their knowledge of the language surpassed what I could remember from more than twenty years ago.
D took four years of German in high school and one in college. Though he says he’s finished with German classes, he is considering a four-week overseas experience in Germany in 2013.
J is in his third year of German, and because he has been taught by a native German (his first year) as well as a woman who is fluent in it because she lived there for four or five years (sophomore and junior years), he has a great foundation and has no problem breaking out his mad skillz at the drop of a hat. We visited Germany last summer as a family and he was conversing pretty impressively with people at the grocery store.
Sometimes he’ll pull out the skills when I least expect it. He often sends me a text from his after-school job, to ask what we’re having for dinner. The other day, the text came in German. So I texted him back, in German.
J: Was gibts fuer abendessen heute nacht? (What’s for dinner tonight?)
Me: Wurst mit kartoffeln. (Hot dogs and french fries.)
J: Koennen wir pesto paninis oder grilled kase mit tomaten bisque nachste woche oder nachsten monat bitte haben? (Next week or next month can we have pesto paninis or grilled cheese and tomato soup?–referring to our meal planning calendar)
Me: Ja! Gute Idee! (Yes! Good idea!)
J: Ach ja, danke, vielleichte mit drei kaese fuer die kaese broetchen 😀 (Great, thanks, and perhaps with three cheeses for the cheese sandwiches? :D)
Me: Ok (Ok.)
J: Alrighty then, good talk. (Alrighty then, good talk.) (<---annoyed that I didn't go beyond "Ok.")
Me: Ha ha, es tut mir leid aber ich bin nur jetzt zur Hause! (Haha, I’m sorry but I just got home!)
J: OOOOOO! Kein sms waehrend du fahrst! (Oooh! No texting while you drive!)
Me: Ich war sms-ing waehrend die Fahre NICHT. Ich brauchste die Post und der Hund draussen. (I was NOT texting while driving. I was getting the mail and letting the dog out.)
J: Na Klar (Oh, okay.)
Me: Hast du Arbeit, oder…? (So, do you have to work, or…?)
No matter that the grammar and spelling weren’t completely perfect–or even close–on either end: we understood each other. Moments like these–full-circle moments–make me smile for days.