Louise sat in the front row of the class room. A white board instead of chalk board staired at her. In stepped a short thin woman, with curly blond hair. There were 13 girls waiting for this moment. ‘’Hallo, I am your German teacher. This will be the only time that I speak English with you. You must hear German to understand it. The first thing you need to know about this language is the melody. It is different than English.’’ She snatched a marker and drew two lines on the board. One that went up at the beginning and one that made a little hill at the end. ‘’This’’ she almost yelled, ‘’is the English melody and this,’’ she hit the board, ‘’ is the German melody. Don’t forget. I expect you to use this melody when speaking in class.’’
The teacher who later earned the name Mrs.Guillotin told the few students in the room to open up their books to the first page. They began learning the German alphabet. Ah, Beh, Ceh, Deh, Eh, eF, Geh, Ha, e (I), yot (J), Kah, eL, eM, eN, O, Peh, kuh (K), eR, S, Tea, oU, fow (V), vay (W), iX, upsilon (Y), tzet (Z). Plus 4 more letters…ß, Ä, Ö and Ü. (ß) esset is the same as ss but is spoken differently. (Ä) sounds like eh. Ö and Ü are so similar that it is difficult for many Americans to hear much less pronounce the difference.
Then the teacher handed out a sheet of paper with German tounge twisters on it. It was Louises homework to memorize them. The class spoke them together once before the bell rang for the next class.
1. Fischers Fritz fischt frische Fische, frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritz.
2. Bierbrauer Bauer braut braunes Bier, braunes Bier braut Bierbrauer Bauer.
3. Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid und Blaukraut bleibt Blaukraut.
4. Zehn Ziegen ziehen Zentner Zement zum Zahnarzt, zum zementieren zerbrochener Zähne.
5. Klitze kleine Katzen kotzen klitze kleine Kotzen, Klitze kleine Kotze kotzen klitze kleine Katzen.
6. Hinter Hermann Hannes Haus hängen hundert Hemden raus, hundert Hemden hängen raus, hinter Hermann Hannes Haus.
7. Dicke Nichten dichten im dichten Fichtendickicht, im dichten Fichtendickicht dichten dicke Nichten.
8. Zwischen zwei Zwetschkenzweigen zwitschern zwei Schwalben, zwei Schwalben zwitschern zwischen zwei Zwetschkenzweigen.
9. Schneiderschere schneidet scharf, scharf schneidet Schneiderschere.
10. Esel essen Nesseln nicht, Nesseln essen Esel nicht.
11. Der Eifersucht ist eine Leidenschaft die mit Eifer sucht was Leiden schaft.
12. Schnecken erschrecken, wenn Schnecken an Schnecken schlecken, weil zum Schrecken vieler Schnecken, Schnecken nicht schmecken.
13. Wenn mancher Mann wüsste, was manche Mann wär, gäb mancher Mann manchem Mann manchmal mehr Ehr‘.
14. Wenn Fliegen hinter Fliegen fliegen, dann fliegen Fliegen Fliegen nach.
‘’An interessting first class,‘‘ thought Louise. ‘’What good will it do me to memorize sayings, when I don’t even know what they mean?’’ she asked herself. Not knowing the answer she went home and memorized the first two.
The next day in class the teacher was already in the room waiting for the 13 girls to arrive. Once the bell rang the teacher spoke German telling everyone to ”get up.”
This little vibrant teacher explained something in German expecting the students to reply. The girls turned more than once, glancing at one another, not understanding what was expected of them. Gabi seemed to pick up on the game and said, ”Ich heisse Gabi, und du?” looking at Louise. Louise was shocked into silence not knowing what to say. Gabi gave her a nod as if to say, ”Come on it’s easy, just repeat me. Say your name.”
The teacher shook her head and clicked her tounge waiving a dismissive hand, allowing Gabi to continue with someone else. Gabi sighed as if to say, ”I’m sorry Lou.” Then turned to Katherine and repeated herself. ”Ich heisse Gabi, und du?” Katherine glanced quikley from left to right, making sure it was her that was being spoken to.
”Um, ish heis Katherin, du?” Katherin knew that it was not perfect and it drove her crazy. Louise noticed that Katherine was shaking. Or was she just imagining that?
Louise felt like an idiot and made a mental note to take her cues from Gabi in the future. ”This school really is as hard as I thought it would be.” thought Louise to herself.
The teacher seamed to like Gabi and made her come to the front of the class room. ”You girls are not as smart as Gabi. I can see that she will be the A student in the class.” She put her right arm around Gabis’ shoulder. ”The rest of you are lazy. Faul. All of you are Faulenzer.” The bell rang and the students were dismissed. All walked quietly, amazed out of the classroom door.
A few of the girls exchanged looks as they entered the neutral air of the hallway. ”It’s not hard for me because my grandparents are German.” Louise heard Gabi exclaim. ”I hope this women cools down soon. I feel sorry for everyone else. I don’t know how they will make it.”
”She is a little different. But I want to learn German because I’ve traveled there so many times with my father on his business trips. I just love the country. I used to be able to speak a little German when I was younger. I want to learn again. Otherwise I might concider switching classes.” Katherine told Louise when they had reached their lockers. Katherin and Louise had almost all the same classes. They both loved dancing and singing and wanted to learn German. Katherine was better than Louise in Math and English which put her in higher class levels meaning 5 of 7 classes together every day. The lockers were ordered by last name, putting Louise Rochester and Katherin Robertson directley next to one another.
It seemed other girls had the same idea as Katherin. On the third day of class there were only 11 girls left in the class. Two had decided to take Spanish instead. By the end of the week only 9 girls were left in the german class. Two more had left, this time for French. This didn’t seem to bother the teacher in the least. She said German is a difficult language, only the smartest students are able to learn.
”There are only 3 students left in my upper classes. They are the best students in their class. That is why they take German. They are the only students smart enough.” She looked around the room before continuing. ”It is not a problem if anyone else wants to leave my class. Louise, I know you are having trouble. You should consider taking another language. I don’t think German is right for you. I am not mean. I just want you to consider, that it is the first week of school. If you are having difficulty now, just think how much more difficult it will become.”
All eyes fixed themselves on Louise. Some girls felt sorry for her. Others thought themselves better than her. They were not the ones being pointed out.
Louise was unsure if she wanted to stay in this class. She questioned whether or not she would be able to endure 4 years with this strange lady. But she knew she wanted to learn German and figured it would be just as difficult as any other language. She decided not to let this hot headed woman determine the direction of her future. She decided to stay.
By the end of the year there were only 6 girls left in the German class. Louise was one of them.
© Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany 2013, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.