Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lieben: German for to love

"Why would you want to learn German?" So said Mum, in a Yorkshire accent, a look of horror on her face. Given when I mentioned it, in her mind she was somewhere in the early 1940s, she thought I was betraying England. Why was I even telling her? It's something to talk about in my monologue as we shuffle around Queen's Park lake, given that mum can't carry on a regular conversation these days. 

Somehow, I've drifted back into talking about mum again. Wasn't my intention. I was thinking about my recent German classes at Melbourne's CAE.

The German people, our young Deutschlehrerin (female German teacher) told us a couple of lessons ago, would only use the expression 'I love…' in the context of an intimate relationship. Ich liebe dich - I love you - is reserved for one's partners, one's family.

 'So you mean,' said John, a student in the class - aged 80 by the way, 'they wouldn't debase the word by using it to describe lesser things?'

'Ja, genau!' she said. Yes, exactly.

So you wouldn't say you loved someone's hair or shoes. Das ist verboten. It's banned. Hurrah, I know another quirk of the German language. I won't embarrass myself by inappropriately professing my love when I'm in Germany: ich liebe das Wohnmobil  - I love this campervan.

Apart from giving my non-working life a bit of structure and perhaps staving off dementia, I decided to learn German because I've travelled there several times and intend to return. The German language was absolutely, well, foreign. We - Al and I - could be handed a German menu in a restaurant and have no idea what the hell was on offer, apart from the ubiquitous wurst, schnitzel and strudel, words that have found their way into our vernacular. We've been stumped driving off an 'Ausfahrt' (exit) on the 'Autobahn' (freeway); bemused as fellow campers have waved us off on a ride with a 'Good fart!' Suppose it could be an added bonus. But Gut Farht actually means have a good journey. As for ordering a glass of wine. In broken German I've asked for 'ein dry white'. Basically I've been requesting 'one - nearly - three, nonsense', given that in German 'w' is pronounced like our 'v' . Suppose that explains occasionally getting a glass of red and making do. Any port in a storm.

Now, German is less weird by the minute. It's easy enough to learn to speak because it's phonetic. Once you can recognise and mimic those 'guttural' sounds you're away. Suppose the grammar would be challenging if one didn't love grammar, as I do. Weird, huh.

Two hours of German class seems to pass by each week in about fifteen minutes. That's total absorption, or mindfulness or I'm having a series of cardio vascular accidents. I'll go with the former.

Given we don't mind debasing the word love in English I can say I love learning German, In German I think that's ich mag Deutsch lernen sehr gern. Course, I could be wrong.

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