Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

I Sprachen

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My German is exceptionally functional, but not exceptionally exceptional. We conduct our home life in English, but once we leave our front door almost everything takes place in German (apart from relationships with some very special English-speaking friends and you know who you are). While my vocabulary is always growing, my grammar is like a rebellious teenager: refusing to grow up and refine itself. As the parent, I get a hideous ping of embarrassment when it fails to be well-mannered, but I’m not actually able to get it to behave.

So today, I’m babysitting two dear little German friends, aged five and three. They’re sitting round the table drawing with my two daughters. Someone asks me for the nth time if they can watch television, and I’m planning to stave off any telly-watching until later in the play-date when people are starting to fall apart. Also it’s a lovely sunny day and I think they should be outside. So I say, ‘I’ll tell you when you can watch something, but in the meanwhile I really don’t want to hear that question again.’ Ping. Something went wrong with that sentence, I’m not too sure what.

I leave the room and overhear the following conversation (in German):

D (4): Do you know what? My mummy doesn’t speak very good German. And do you know why? It’s because she didn’t go to kindergarten in Germany.

Friend (5): Where did she go to kindergarten?

D: She went to kindergarten in SOUTH AFRICA! So that’s why she doesn’t speak very well.

Well, Three Oaks Nursery School, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, you’ve got a lot to answer for. Your German language lessons were obviously not up to much …

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Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

7 thoughts on “I Sprachen

  1. It hurts to get dissed by kids! 🙂

  2. I agree with funkmeister — and it happens all the time. You think, because they’re so short, children can’t see things that well. In fact, they can. And once they learn to talk, well….

    On another note, my children, like yours are in schools where they are educated in another language. My two older boys went to a French school in Berkeley from kindergarten on. And my youngest is at a Spanish immersion school in our neighborhood. It’s very odd seeing them read in a language that is not your own mother tongue. And wonderful in a way that they get to be, at such an early age, better than you are at something that’s pretty important. And how lucky they are all to be bilingual in a world where we could use more understanding of other cultures and languages.

  3. lololol…that’s a cute story. I’m impressed that you speak German, even if it’s just functionally. In fact, I’ll bet your German is far better than my rudimentary Spanish 🙂

  4. Giving our children the opportunity to grow up fully bilingual (and then hopefully move on to other languages with ease) is one of the main reasons we live in Germany. It’s astonishing what a painless process language acquisition is for the under-fives – after about eight weeks in kindergarten, L was prattling away like a native. D speaks beautifully now and in two years’ time we’ll be immersing Ollie. He’s the only one born here, so at 15 months he’s already saying German words as well as English ones. It’ll be interesting to see if he confuses the two or if he manages the separation as well as his sisters have.

  5. Snicker. BlogLily and I grew up in a home with a Russian linguist. We spent three tours in Germany (Lily only was there for the second two).

    Our father speaks many more languages than we do – but when you have these conversations in mixed languages, your friends kind of stare at you.

    Instead of learning a traditional language, my youngest granddaughter is learning sign language. Mostly food words. Her day care started that, and we add to her vocabulary daily. The ten year old learns the same signs.

  6. Pingback: SAP’s secret language (no not ABAP) « Vendorprisey

  7. I also attended Three Oaks & remember Mrs Ware and I think Stowell and Singer.

    I did not take the German option.

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