October 28, 2010 | German
In which I visit German classes on the Upper East Side.
I woke up in the dark yesterday, around 5:45 a.m. It was not my intention to wake up while it was still dark. The result of waking up in the dark was that I was tired. I hate that.
In the afternoon, I had an appointment in Chelsea. Feeling sleepy, I stopped by Le Pain Quotidien, where, while awaiting my latte, I was amused by the signs on the front door.
Le Pain Quotidien, with Comprehensive Exiting Instructions
I found them very thorough.
At 5 p.m., I went to PS 169 on East 88th Street (this is a school named for Robert F. Kennedy) to visit classes of the German Language Learning Club, whose mission is “keeping Yorkville/Kleindeutschland's Heritage Alive.” Kathy Jolowicz, a historian of the German presence in New York, runs the show.
First I went to the children's classes for an hour. The kids ranged from two to nine years old, and they were split up by age into three different groups.
Some of them appeared to be totally fluent in German. At least one little boy was high-spirited to a degree that seemed in opposition to ideals of German discipline. He was given a letze Warnung (last warning) more than once. He seemed not to be particularly impressed by last warnings.
PS 169: Where German Classes Happen
There was much Halloween discussion in the classes. One of my favorite activities involved a haunted house, drawn very simply on a plain white sheet of paper, and several ghosts (Geister), also on plain paper, and attached to what looked like popsicle sticks. One ghost was given to each small child, all of whom seemed delighted to become ghost custodians.
The house, and the ghosts, were then used for vocabulary drills. The learning tools were simple: no flashing lights, no loud beeping sounds, no computers. I found it very pure and refreshing, and the kids seemed to love it.
Next I attended the advanced class for adults, which I loved. There was one (very kind) instructor and, besides me, three students. One had grown up in the U.S. speaking German because her relatives—perhaps including her parents; I can’t remember—were German. Another had been born in Germany and then came to the States as a child. A third was learning it because she is a musician who loves Lieder!
On the School Walls, a Poignant Reminder
We sat in an elementary school classroom and we blabbed. Auf Deutsch. I learned a further application of “shitty” in German: “Ich habe ganz beschissene Laune.” I hope I wrote it down right; it means, “I am in quite a shitty mood.”
There was discussion of noun gender (as there often is in German), and plurals, and animal vocabulary. My flash card studying came in handy! Because of it, I was able to offer animal nouns such as der Löwe (the lion) and die Ziege (goat), complete with the correct articles. Bieber, I learned, is “beaver.” Meaning Justin Bieber is the German translation of Justin Beaver.
I like knowing that kind of thing.