Friday, October 23, 2015

The adventures of Frau Umlaut and the bad case of diaresis

It's the first night of German language classes, and we are all about to learn the two principal grammatical cases of the language, the Awkward, and the Incorrect. The basic set up is this: a bunch of students sit in the room and wonder who the hell everyone else is and why are they here again; and then they get up and attempt to communicate this to one another in a language that nobody understands at all.

There is a teacher who, for the purposes of this blog post, I will call Frau Umlaut. Her part is simple: she just stands up there and introduces the topic for the day in the aforementioned language, which, as also aforementioned, nobody understands. Sometimes she compliments or criticises students in the same language, but how could we tell which is which? And there is a football (why a football?) which we all toss around in a big circle, and take turns introducing ourselves while we hold it. Hello, I am called good! My name is Melbourne, and I live in Tim! And you?

That was three weeks ago. (See? in the past but I was talking in the present tense - I totally do know grammar!). But by far my favourite moment in German classes happened two weeks ago, when, at the end of another exercise in the Awkward and Incorrect cases, another student who I'll call Ess-Tset and I passed accidentally into the third important German case - Just Plain Confused. After exchanging as much irrelevant and pointless information we could in a language neither of us really could understand, Ess-Tset cast around for the right words: "Many bitte!" Which translates to: "Much please!" Though, thinking about it at the time, I realised the German word for thanks had gone right out of my mind, too. (Danke. It's Danke.)

Now, if you'll excuse me - I have a bad case of diaeresis and I have to go to the toilet.


Steve said...

Why German?

TimT said...

Warum nicht?

TimT said...

Studied it at school. Didn't keep up with it in years 11 and 12 - I probably should have, and may have ended up getting better grades than I did in chemistry or physics. I was recently reading Goethe in one of those useful books where the translation is on the same page as the original poem and was really struck by how Goethe's poetry resonates in spite of the language barrier - and thought, "I'd really like to become more fluent in German so that I can understand these poems better".

Steve said...

Gosh. You sound like Clive James on a smaller scale.

TimT said...

Indeed, that is one of his admirable characteristics. Japanese (one of his later language interests) would certainly be fun to learn.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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