With my little trip to Berlin coming up in May I thought I had better put some work in on my German. I had said airily to my friend G, who is coming with me, that we will be fine because I can speak the language fairly fluently. Yet there is more to a foreign language than speaking it. While listening to Angela Merkel on the news on TV recently I tried not to read the subtitle translation and was depressed to find that most of her speech passed over my head. OK, the intricacies of the European monetary crisis are not in the same league as “Can you direct me to the nearest toilet?” or “Two gin and tonics, please,” but my confidence definitely took a battering so I have got my books out in order to do a bit of aufgabe. Also I am keen to slow down the rate at which my little grey cells disintegrate and apparently there is nothing like learning a language for doing this.
Well, I would have got the books out if I could have found them. During the building of my loft last year I did a lot of sorting and packing away, and now I can’t find my German text books anywhere. I have even had to buy a new dictionary which is annoying as I have two perfectly good ones somewhere. However I did find two old German texts books in a pile of junk waiting to go out in the next charity bag, and I am going to make do with these. Unfortunately I am not sure how useful or applicable they are going to be. The one published in 1954 does not actually use that phrase about one’s postillion being struck by lightning or that the pen of my aunt is on the table, but it does go into great length about buying leather gloves in the department store and paying for them in marks and pfennigs. The other book is for the post 16s and there are exercises on finding the best disco, making friends at the bar and how to have tattoos done safely, none of which, to be honest, I wish to do in Berlin. I can’t speak for G of course.
“There are exercises on finding the best disco, making friends at the bar and how to have tattoos done safely”
So I am going to read a book in German. The choice on my shelves is not extensive. Andorra by Max Frisch, The Good Woman Of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht or All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. So, no contest