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Geld oder Leben?

January 27th, 2004 · 1 Comment

Geld oder Leben? Guys in middle school German class would goof around and pretend to rob each other, pointing index fingers to chests as mock guns, declaring “Geld oder Leben?” (Your) money or (your) life?

That doesn’t happen any more at my alma mater. Years ago German class got cancelled, replaced by Chinese. I understand the logic, given the population and growth of China versus that of Germany. In fact I wish I had had a chance to study Chinese too.

German doesn’t seem to be so useful anymore. I don’t know what practical worth it has had even to me, except as a secret language from the children (I married a man who once studied the stuff!), and occasional glimpses into scientific journals or product instructions.

German to me was the language of ‘ich hab’s” (bingo) games on Fridays with pretzels as rewards (we still envied those French students getting crepes!), our teacher Frau B. with her skiing tales and Swiss dialects, learning parts of grammar I didn’t know existed – later on the language of Doppelganger, Tin Drum and Faust, what I studied and discussed, memorized and acted out in high school and college.

More than that, it was my family heritage. The language my grandmother and great-grandmother used to discuss my Christmas gifts – hence my motivation! Marzipan and Tannenbaum songs, anise cookies and pancakes rolled up with applesauce and powdered sugar.

After a trip to Germany with relatives when I was a teenager, I preserved gummy bears in my scrapbook along with Fanta wrappers and hotel brochures. I brought home a blue Hofbrauhaus shirt from the night I had my first beer. To my teenage mind, our time visiting the graffitied Berlin Wall and touring through then-communist East Germany spoke the most to me. Closing my eyes I can still see the vivid turquoise paint and graffiti pictures painted with passion on the wall, the empty no-man’s land between the two nations, the graves of many who had died escaping to freedom. And I can’t forget Dachau – I won’t forget it: the bunkers, crematorium ovens still filled with ash, and the barbed wire sculpture woven with screaming faces.

German brings to mind my petite great-grandmother with her affection and her accent, the discontinued Deutschmark, mornings spent in intense class discussions of literature and politics with red-haired Herr B…who’s now been reassigned to history. Kids at my high school won’t be learning this language. It wasn’t considered important enough to make the curriculum.

Ah, but on buzzmachine I see that I could get paid to blog in German. Blog auf Deutsch? Aber naturlich. Fur Geld! Maybe that’d be some motivation for my high school to reconsider 😉

And via makeoutcity I see that German is also the language of love. Lieben, as one would say, auf Deutsch. Surely romance can make anything more attractive, even German to the French….lots of adolescents would want that class!

Geld oder Lieben? Geld oder Leben?
When it comes to my efforts trying to teach my own children German, it’s got nothing to do with Geld…and lots to do with Lieben and Leben.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Tamara // Jan 28, 2004 at 5:10 pm


    Haribro makt Kinder frau. 😉