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 …