Saturday, July 28, 2012
My father was Irish through and through, and my mother was second generation German. I've always favored my Irish side, because my surname was very Irish and my dad carried it proudly. My mom went to both Lutheran school and German school. Her parents wanted all of their children to know German, so my mom was pretty much bi-lingual as a child. When she married and moved away from her family, however, she forgot a lot of the language except for a few choice phrases. When she got together with her siblings, they always spoke to one another in German.
Last night, I was having trouble getting to sleep, so I picked up my Kindle and looked at the list of books I had in there. One was a course in German, so I thought I would look at it for the first time. I decided to study basic phrases first, and go from there. The only problem was that there was no sound with the course, so I couldn't hear the correct pronunciation of the phrases. As I looked through the course, I found a multiple choice test of phrases. Ok, that was a challenge, even though I had very limited knowledge of German from my mother. I took the test and got 23 out of 25 correctly! I couldn't imagine knowing any of the phrasing, much less getting most of the questions right. I started wondering if I had a German language gene! It was eerie.
This test wasn't easy, but I could take what very limited words I knew and make an educated guess. This is particularly peculiar due to the fact that I only knew the following greetings and sentences:
What are you messing around?
and something my mother and aunt thought was hysterically funny:
There she goes again.
I don't know her.
I guess you had to hear it in German and know the context for it to be funny. Of course, my mom said "There she goes again" to me often, especially when we were supposed to be quiet, like in church or even at a restaurant when somebody walked by. You know how it is when you get tickled over something when you're supposed to be quiet. My mother made that situation into an art form, and once she started, I couldn't help suppressing laughter by trying to cover it up with a cough or some other noise. Saying it in German in a Lutheran church is pretty much a good bet that somebody would hear it and know what she was saying.
It didn't help that the words themselves were often funny all by themselves without translation. I knew to get away from her when she uttered "I farted," because I knew it meant that a wall of smell was getting ready to come my way, and I didn't want anyone to blame it on me. It was always unbelievable to me that such a lovely woman could be so gassy! My mother let go anywhere--church, the grocery store, etc., anywhere. I mean, it's something we all have to do, but my goodness, let's keep it private! I could find her in a store by following the smell. I guess she wasn't able to hold it, because one time she cut loose in the line to shake hands with the pastor, Wouldn't you know that the smell hit him about the time it was my turn to shake hands. He made a terrible face, and I knew he thought it was me.
Mom told me that when she and her sister would walk home from Lutheran school every day, some kids from the Catholic school would try to beat them up. I guess they didn't know that she had a secret weapon--gas warfare! I'm sure they stopped trying after a few days of it.
Can you imagine going to another school right after the whole day in a different one? I don't think I could have done it, much less kids today. But, she did speak two languages, and then I learned a little (enough to pass a test) and I passed what little I knew to my daughter, who has taught her husband a few words. Now there is someone teaching Irish at our library, and I'm thinking of learning it too, but it looks difficult. I'm pretty sure they won't say anything with the word "fart" in it.