Thursday, June 3, 2010

English: the living language

I'm going to be mean today.
it's graduation exam time, and the 9th graders who are about to leave school are studying for their oral English exams next week. They come to me for coaching,  hoping I'll be able to teach them everything they did not learn during their past four years in two days. But "That's not how it works," of course,  said with the wonderful words of my novel's female main character.
The first part of their test is an introduction of themselves and their families.
So I tell them to write it down in German first, and then to translate it, and then we do the corrections together.
Today, I was served this by a girl. She is 17,  her origins are Turkish, and she is one of the GOOD students. just to give you an idea. And a laugh. Go ahead. Don't think of the girl, think of the garbled language and enjoy. I'm going to copy it out for you. Verbatim.

About my family is that. I going with my parents often in the same shopping center.
On the weekend when the sun shines we go whole family to the same (the river is in Wedel).*
We grill there the whole family and play there a lot of things like volleyball.
Another thing is that we fly in the summer holidays in Turkey after Antalya. We stay there in the hotel stay for weeks and then 2-3. We then visit my uncle in Antalya and the other known in Antalya.
After we drive to Gaziantep the drive to G. takes about 14-15 hours.
When we arrived in G.for my uncle before bus station.  Our village is located about 60 km from the city. 
There waiting for us we are in our village verwandten. We then where all our well-known. Our whole town then come to us to say hello and we kiss and then left to right, Then come my friends and cousin to suit me hello.
In our village are only drive a bus stop where the buses at 6.00 in the morning and come to 2 clock will be so again. As the court is legally there great celebration. From our village  is a small brock which flows out to Eufirat. In this little brock there are 40 small also the pose from among the raussfliesst.
When we go the whole family for picnics.
We go there with the tractors but most of the few routes  to go on foot because the stretch is quite dangerous  because the ride is uncomfortable.
We stay 4-6 days in the village then we drive into town to buy something for the road home. Example, when accounting, baclava, pistachio and wider clothes.
So our adventure ends holiday in Turkey.

*The river here in Wedel is called "Elbe", not "same".

And no, I'm kidding you not.


  1. At least I could understand most of it - if I tried to communicate in another language, it would be totally undecipherable. Anyone (like you) who can master more than one language has my undying admiration. Thanks for the laugh.

  2. Having read this piece twice I´m tempted to believe that a computer translation programm was used!!

    But to be honest, that could be how it looks when I write in German, having taught myself over the years I still tend to write sentences the wrong way round!

    Does this stand a chance in an exam?

  3. I, too, could not do much better in another language. I took 4 years of French in school in a sort of immersion environment, so I did okay, but most American kids get 2 years, at best. I'm not so sure most American students could do a whole lot better than your student did. I AM surprised no one came to you for help, though. Seriously!

  4. Kids at German schools start English in FIRST GRADE!!!! Some even in kindergarden And with German and Math, it is never, ever dropped. You MUST study English until you leave school, be that after 9, 10 or 13 years. Maybe I should have put that in the post.

  5. Okay, then that's bad. I did better than that in French after only 2 years' study. Maybe a mental block?

  6. "We grill there the whole family...". I'd like to do that with my family. It's inspired.

    So, one of the good ones, eh? My idealized image of German foreign-language education has been tarnished a little. But, of course, we in the US have no frame of reference for this.

    I take it this girl speaks both German and Turkish fluently?

  7. Ack, no. Neither mental block nor fluent German or Turkish.
    I guess this calls for another blog that explains the German school system. It is complicated and confusing, and i think you will not like it a lot.

  8. Your right there, I don´t like it and I live here!!
    Even after 30 odd years I can´t understand the school system! On top of that they change things from school to school, or from County to County!

  9. I think the that has poetic potential :-))))

  10. Look at the imagery in this 'Our whole town then come to us to say hello and we kiss' - it's beautiful. If she's Turkish, is this her third language?

  11. When I buy, when accounting, pistachio and baclava, I also have to buy wider clothes.

    Very, very funny. But I suppose everyone is right, I wouldn't be able to do much better. I would at least limit myself to writing only what I know I can translate correctly, even if it was confined to "I am fine. I have a family. My name is Jennifer."