Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shocking Germans

I had a lovely morning today, frühstücking* with a couple of German friends. They're both mothers whose sons are friends with my son and so be default they've become my friends too. They're both lovely ladies, who both have a good understanding of English (although not necessarily of the English, which is a different matter altogether) and tolerate my wholesale massacring of their mother tongue.

We had a good, long, leisurely breakfast, starting at 8.30 and leaving around 11 - we made sure to get our money's worth out of Enzo's (the café) and we were maybe a little too loud for some of the (older) clientele - two ladies on an adjacent table pointedly moved to the other side of the room, while muttering under their breath, which just led Bettina to comment that she wasn't aware we were still in school. To be honest, the ladies got off lightly, if I'd been there with my usual frühstück crew (Brits and Yanks) the noise level would have been far greater amd the subject matter far seedier.

It's amazing what three women can find to chat about over breakfast (especially one that lasts 2.5 hours) we covered everything from sex starved OAPs (and how to deal with then) to teenage boys starting to get interested in girls, touching on organic ways of getting rid of moths, what we provide (or not) our families with for food whilst they're at work/school**, whether a child should choose Latin or French as their second subject at the age of 11 (oddly enough I was advocating Latin, mainly because the child is struggling with English and at least with Latin you don't (in theory) have to speak it) and what our variously aged children are asking for for Christmas (everything from "whatever", to a list that would keep Saint Nick and his elves busy for more than one night).

At one point my German was in free flow and Bettina paused to exclaim that I'd just used the "plus quam perfect tense" (or as the English know it, the pluperfect or past perfect) - I'm not sure who was more shocked, Bettina, clearly thinking that such advanced grammar should be beyond me (I must have got all the verbs in the right order for once!) or Ingrid and I for realising that Bettina can hear a tense and label it, just like that (I don't think she was a grammar teacher BC, maybe she's just naturally swotty?) This led us onto a loud and amusing discussion about German tenses, with a debate about the Konjunktive II - I declared it to be all but dead (I remember reading and translating an article all about it, where the author referred to this particularly nasty piece of grammar as an almost extinct animal in the zoo) so I happily likened the Konjunctive II to the black rhino. They were not convinced however which led us onto forms of the K II, how can you possibly take a tense seriously that turns the verb to eat (essen) into "äßen"?

Breakfast with a grammar lesson, how very Deutsch!

* breakfasting - teaching you Denglish now.
** the German way seems to be "butterbrot", sandwiches with cheese, ham, nutella or chocolate***
*** by chocolate I literally mean chocolate, in the supermarkets you can buy packets of chocolate which is in thin sheets, designed specifically for going between two pieces of bread - mad.

No comments: