Q & A

 My path to school in Goslar/Harz

Betsy asked a question and I thought I’d post the answer here!
"Did your Mom and Dad learn to speak English?  
I know that you kids did..
Did you teach your kids German as well as English?"

Yes, my parents learned English quickly after immigrating to Canada, but they continued to have a strong accent all their lives. They learned to read very well, but when writing, there were always grammar and spelling mistakes. You could still make out what they meant though! For parent/teacher interviews regarding my younger siblings, I was the designated ‘parent’! Oh what fun!! However, when it came time for devotions, prayer and worship they much preferred the German,  because I’m sure that God could understand them better, lol. Family and social times were always mostly German. We as children were even sent to the Saturday German School at our church – which was an all German church where my uncle was the pastor.  After completing the highest grade in that school, I carried on the tradition and taught the younger ones for a few years, before I married and moved away.

Among family and friends we moved in and out of the English and the German with such ease and talked ‘die schoenste language’ - a total mix of both.  If mom was telling a German friend that dad had been painting the fence, she would say, ‘Heinrich hat heute die fence gepainted.’  We would kill ourselves laughing when our parents did that, as I’m sure others did when they heard us do the same thing later on.  However, we were taught to be respectful of those who didn’t understand our language and stick to English only when we were at work or in public places.  While it never bothered me personally when others spoke in their mother tongue when I was around, some folks are very sensitive in that area. 

Hubby and I spoke both languages with our children, preferring the English, much to our parents’ chagrin.  My parents lived nearby for many years, babysat our children at times, and we did a lot of visiting in each other’s homes.  That’s why our children learned to communicate so well with their grandparents in German.  We even sent our children to Saturday German school at the church where my mom taught. The year our son, the youngest, started school he did so in the School District’s brand new bilingual program.  Ken had 9 years of bilingual daily instruction in German at the elementary and later junior high schools. Then in high school everything else was in English, but he wrote all his exams for the German course without having to attend any classes.  He also went as exchange student to Germany and we had an exchange student from Germany living with us for a while. Our province  also offers Ukrainian-English, Hebrew-English, French-English etc. bilingual schools. It’s really cool and such an enhancement for the whole community. Multi-culturalism has worked quite well in Canada – but I’m sure there are pro and con debates!

A few other little facts:
Both my parents spoke German and Polish fluently. They used Polish especially at Christmas to keep secrets from us children!
Our oldest grandchild took French in school, her father’s heritage. Her dad is a teacher in a totally French high school here.
Our second son-in-law speaks low German – being of Mennonite heritage. He is also a teacher, among other subjects teaching one class of German in the public school system.
Hubby and our son have both studied Hebrew and Greek in their chosen career.
Our daughter-in-law also speaks a bit of Spanish I believe.

But really, what’s more important than all of those skills, 
is to speak the language of love!  

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, 
but have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

This was so interesting.Both Jake and I grew up speaking Low German.We now mostly use English but still slip in some Low German now and then.Some things just sound better in our first language.
We both understand the High German,but have never really used it ,except to sing hymns in church.I still enjoy singing German hymns.

Bernie said...

This post was interesting. Unfortunately I only speak English, but can understand and read a bit of French....something I always wanted to do was to learn another language.....:-) Hugs

Betty said...

I went to German school too, but I´m sure if we would have stayed in Canada,I would probably have lost what I had been taught there. Because us kids, didn´t speak German at home and we did NOT want to be different from the other kids. But when we moved to Paraguay we lived in a German community, so naturally we had to learn it. And then it was the other way around. In order to NOT be different we didn´t speak English at all.... Confusing, I know. :)
Now I´m glad I know both languages though. :)

Cathryn said...

Good Morning Karin. It was wonderful reading about the different languages that your family has and does partake of. It was nice having a peek into your past - you are a good writer - because I was able to visualize much of what you wrote. Enjoyed it. You have a rich heritage. Share more when you can. Love, Cathryn

Doris Sturm said...

Interesting story. Sounds a lot like my experience. I came from Gemany to California in 1971 at the tender age of 18 and barely spoke a few words of English. I learned everything over here and I still have my accent and I still mix up my f's and v's, t's and d's k's and c's and normally don't worry about it unless I have to write a business letter, but this is blogland and I think the rules are not as strik(c)t.

Happy weekend!

Jan said...

All your stories about your family are so interesting, Karin.
My paternal line came to Australia from UK in 1788, and the maternal line that I have tracked back to late 1800s were born in Australia also.
Richest Blessings - Jan

George said...

Thanks for sharing this with us, Karin. This reminds me of the parents of my late wife. They both learned English but much preferred talking in Hungarian. My wife was fluent in both languages. Our children learned a 'smattering' of Hungarian.

Evi said...

I am so proud of the heritage you gave me! Donkey Chain!

Joy said...

Karin, I really enjoyed this post. I wish they would start foreign language classes in the elementary schools here in the U.S. They wait till highschool and its just too late.
That walk to school you had is beautiful.
♥ Joy

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Very interesting, Karin.... Thanks for answering some of my questions... Life must have been so interesting for you and your family. I'm sorry now that I didn't pursue a 2nd language... My best friend majored in Spanish --and can really speak that language. She really makes the money by translating (Nashville, TN) to the hispanics --who do not speak English. She does that in the school system and also in the healthcare field. Don't know why they are in this country without learning the language --but that's another blog... ha...

Thanks so much, Karin.

Karen said...

I really enjoyed reading this...and loved your ending thoughts and scripture!

Karabeth said...

My grandma's grandparents spoke only German in their home (her maiden name was Kuntz) but since they died when she was only 3 or 4 years old she didn't learn any of the language herself. Her memories were of visiting old people with whom she could not communicate.

I wish so very much that our family had kept some of the remnants of languages from our heritage. About as close as it gets is the combination of some of my "high-faluting" family communicating with my Appalachian family. Yes, even here in the States we have problems understanding each other, and that's just those of us who supposedly speak English! :)

P.S. I might take you up on the offer to read over my German heritage genealogy book before its published. I could use the insight of someone familiar with the langauge and customs.