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February 6, 2010

Ich kann Deutsch

Filed under: Germany — Tags: — furtherglory @ 4:13 pm

“Ich kann Deutsch.”  That’s the way you say: “I can speak German.”

I am taking a class in German in preparation for my next trip to Germany.  Of course, everybody speaks English in Germany now, although not so much in the small towns. Germany has vastly changed since the end of World War II and modern German is a bit different.  For example, you can’t say Fräulein any more; that’s an insult now.  Tschüss has replaced Auf Wiedersehen among the young people. Jawohl is frowned upon as being too militaristic;  Germany is a peaceful country now.

The best thing about my class is that the teacher allows us to pronounce the German ch sound as sh.  As in ish and mish instead of ich and mich.  And we don’t have to trill the letter R.  Trilling the R at the end of a word is bad form now.  My teacher says that the German people now speak German in softer tones, not the harsh German of their parents and grandparents.  They don’t want to sound like Hitler giving a speech.

In our class, we don’t bother with grammar.  The whole class is conducted in German and the students speak German to each other.  If we make a mistake in grammar, the teacher corrects us, so we gradually learn the German cases, but the words dative and accusative are never spoken. After all, that’s the way German children learn to speak German.

When I lived in Nürnberg for almost two years after the war, I picked up a little German from my German landlord and my German neighbors.  I didn’t know, until I started my German class, that I had actually learned to pronounce German words as in the  dialect called Bayerisch.

When I lived in Germany, back in 1957 and 1958, everything was German. All the goods for sale in the stores, the music, the movies, the people, the clothes, the food in restaurants – everything was “echt Deutsch” or genuine German.  The only way to buy American goods or to see an American movie was on an American Army base. You couldn’t  buy a coke or American cigarettes in a German store, and of course, American beer was not available in German bars.

Germany is now multi-cultural and everything has changed. The favorite food, according to my German teacher, is now “curry wurst.”  Italian foods are popular, especially pizza, which is pronounced pit-zuh in German.

Back in 1957, my German landlord told me that corn was never eaten by Germans because it was animal food.  There are two different verbs for the word “eat” in German: essen and fressen.  Fressen is what animals do.  Former German soldiers who had been Prisoners of War in America told me that they had been served cornbread, which was a humiliation for them.  They were also fed American style chilli beans which the German POWs considered to be inhumane.  Now the Germans eat corn and foods flavored with hot chilli peppers.

In my German class, we’re learning how to order in German restaurants.  In Germany, Wienerschnitzel is not the name of a hot dog fast food restaurant; it is a breaded veal cutlet.  Ziegeunerschnitzel is a spicy Schnitzel, cooked Gypsy style. In 1957, I was told that there were no more Gypsies or Jews in West Germany; Hitler had gotten rid of them all.

We learned about the mistake President John F. Kennedy made at the Berlin wall when he said “Ich bin ein Berliner.”  He should have said “Ich bin Berliner.”  Instead, he said that he was a round jelly-filled pastry.

I’m hoping that I’ll find a German restaurant where I can order “ein Berliner” on my trip to Germany.

Tschüss