Three Magic Words

You *may* have heard that we are headed to Munich later this summer. The idea for the trip was actually about four and a half years ago, when the older boy was just getting started with his German I class. Having enjoyed the heck out of five years of German class (8th-12th grade) and having spent one month in Germany as a teenager, I knew that I wanted to get this kid over there, to reinforce what he was learning and to make it real. There’s something about traveling to a place whose language you’re learning that solidifies so much in your mind.

Anyway, when the older boy was getting started, I said to him, “You know, I don’t know if you’re going to want to do this, but I personally think that you should go beyond the minimum high school requirements (2 years) for learning a foreign language. By the end of the second year, you’re really just starting to delve into the good stuff. If you do end up sticking with German, I can tell you that I will do my best to get our family over there when you graduate from high school.”

Now, don’t go thinking that this trip was the sole motivator for his completing all four years. At the end of his second year, he really wanted to stop, and I told him it was his choice. Some friends of his were moving on and talked him into one more year. When German 3 began in his junior year, he had a revelation and was a little irritated.

“Mom! Gah! (okay, I don’t really think he said “Gah!”, but it fits) It doesn’t make any sense for me to stop after third year German…I mean, AP German 4 is all that’s left. It just seems like someone should either stop at two or go all the way through four.”

And so he did.

The younger boy just finished up his first year of German and really loved it. (and hey, I will make the same commitment to him! Germany 2013! Woot!)

The three of us will sometimes chat (around the house) in very rudimentary German. The older boy has the best sentence structure; I am very rusty but can understand lots. The younger boy knows the basics. Our conversations are hilarious.

There’s one person who has no idea what we’re talking about, though. Jim does not speak German. He took French I in high school, and I’m pretty sure that he won’t mind that I tell you about how he did very, very poorly in the class. Very. That’s okay though, because even though foreign language is not a strength of his, he more than makes up for it in other areas.

Anyway, since we decided to go to Germany, Jim has made a couple of comments reminding us that he will be the only non-German speaker on the trip. I keep telling him that it’s okay, for three reasons:

1. Most people in Munich speak English.
2. Our awesome hosts, Kat and her hubby, speak English.
3. The boys and I can handle any German that comes our way, if need be.

He’s trying, though. He’s got a couple of words, three to be exact, under his belt. I had the opportunity to tell Kat about them the other day, when she asked me (on Twitter) how I was doing.

I think we’re all going to be just fine.


©2010 Suburban Scrawl


  • Mom24

    I know you're going to have a wonderful time! Sadly, budget cuts have devastated our high schools and Germany's no longer offered. Even more sadly, Rebekah took 3 years of French, earned straight A's and yet can barely speak a word of French. *sigh*

  • kat

    I can hardly wait till you are here anymore. I actually admire the three of you for learning German. It really isn't easy. Even most Germans don't speak proper German 🙂
    While you are here, you can polish up your German, we'll teach Jim some words and phrases and we will polish up our English. Fun, fun, fun.

  • seashore subjects

    Sounds like a great time will be had by all.

    And thanks for the tip. I am planning to use your example as a carrot for my teen. She's in Spanish, so I have lots of destination choices!

  • Dawn

    Very exciting! Nick and Scott can speak Spanish and they like to speak it in front of me (I don't speak any foreign language, unfortunately.) Nick took 4 years of Spanish in high school and tested into the 300 level in college!

    Did the older boy sign up for German at college?

    BTW, my word verification is cocular, which comes in handy for speaking. 😉 LOL

  • PJ Mullen

    I'm hoping once baby girl is here and a little older we can make a pilgrimage to the area in Germany where my wife has family. I've been practicing. I can say "Das ist bier". I think I'll fit right in just like Jim 🙂

  • Tara R.

    I took German in college and can only remember how to say 'I don't know' and 'I don't understand' – two phrases I used a lot in class. I loved the language and still wish I had stuck with it, and studied better.

  • kathi

    My husband and I both totally wasted the language-learning opportunities provided by bilingual parents, sad to say. However, on the bright side, we are able to order beer in at least six different languages. I hope to visit Germany someday (country of origin for my dog breed of choice, Rottweiler) and at least I will not go thirsty 🙂

  • ThePeachy1

    Sounds like awesome fun you guys will have and yes Jim will be fine with those words. I too took French. My daughter took spanish all through high school and in college she took german, up until this year when she dropped advanced technical writing in German, due to some professors nasty comments. My Aunt was German and so we had "our" secret code. I also found out my aunt was a prankster. When I had a German exchange student at school I asked her what I should say to him, she told me to say .. wo ist Ihr Bett Raum?… needless to say he ran screaming away very flushed. sehr gut Aunt Karola. Danke

  • john cave osborne

    as you know, i took four years of german in highschool then went on to major in german in college. speaking a foreign language is a great skill and it also helps one gain command of one's native tongue.

    i hope you guys have a great time. it will truly be a wonderful trip!

  • Tom

    I'm envious – and I hope you have a ton of fun! Your boys are going to be great men, with the work ethic you've instilled in them.

  • Otter Thomas

    That trip sounds like so much fun. Sausage and Beer come to mind.

    You are right to encourage your boys to take as many years as possible of a foreign language. That is a great skill to have later in life. I took two years of French and still remember a lot of it. Of course French is useless. What does anyone need that for. France is not a serious world leader. Neither is Haiti or the Ivory Coast.