Today is my dad’s birthday. So what does that have to do with German and bilingualism?
Well, he took 8 years of German in high school and college. . . . And he can’t speak a lick! He’ll gladly take the blame and admit he didn’t put a lot of time into studying. But from what he’s told me, it also sounds like he was working with the antiquated grammar-translation method – enough to put even the most motivated student to sleep!
After eight years, he can remember only one word: “Fremdenverkirschbüro“. It makes me giggle every time he says it. See, it’s supposed to be “Fremdenverkehrsbüro,” which is the foreign travel office. But what he really says (according to my translation) is foreign office of the wayward cherries It makes for a funny story, but really, it’s such a shame. As he’d be the first to tell you.
Fast forward to the next generation… My older brother and I both started to learn German in high school. Unlike my dad, we had an extraordinary teacher. We both loved it so much, we continued to study the language (and literature and culture) in college. My brother hasn’t had much opportunity to speak German since he graduated, but he still speaks very well and loves the chance to do so. I fell in love with the language and just kept studying it. And I’m able to keep it fresh by teaching, not only in a classroom, but now to Aleksander.
On to the third generation… Now it is Aleksander’s turn (whether he likes it or not!). My dad’s story offers just one more motivating factor to continue speaking German with Aleksander. I think bilingualism is such a gift to give him, and I’d be doing him a disservice if I didn’t continue to try. I know my dad is really excited that I’m speaking German with Aleksander. It means a lot to have his support and encouragement.
So thanks for the inspiration, Dad! And Happy Birthday!