Feeling “zu Hause”

December 8, 2016

Friedenshaus continues to draw new people through its doors.  We have now met more than 40 people who have come for language help. Almost every day we meet someone new – which is fantastic.  Each day we offer classes, we see between 15 to 20 students.  Most students are still at a beginner level, but there are also a handful who are preparing for higher level language exams. These students come with specific questions and particular language areas they would like help with.

During all of our classes we try to have a break time. This is a chance for students and teachers to relax from the concentration of learning and teaching. It is also a time to learn a little bit about each other. When our granddaughter Roslyn joined us this week, it provided a natural opportunity for our students to tell us about their children and how old they were.  It took many of the students a while to realize Roslyn was an “Enkelin” (granddaughter) not an “Enkel” (grandson) because of her lack of hair.  Very short blonde hair is just not seen in Syria and baby girls usually have their ears pierced by the time they are one month old.  Roslyn garnered many smiles and was especially loved by Jahid.  Jahid, a young man from rural Syria, left a few nephews and nieces behind whom he really misses.  When Roslyn entered the room he jumped up from the table and had her in his arms within a minute. He was quick to share that he hopes to have 20 children of his own some day!


During our coffee times, Arabic is still the primary language.  However, we notice that if we speak slowly one on one with our students, we are beginning to hear a little bit about their lives. Yesterday I (Marla) had a conversation with a young man I will call Mohammed.  Mohammed left Damascus when he was 17 years old.  He stopped for extended periods in Lebanon, Turkey and Hungary before coming to Germany just over a year ago.  In the first three countries he was able to find jobs as a cook or kitchen help – always sending money back to his family in Damascus who is trying to survive and often hungry.  Now in Germany Mohammed cannot work until he learns German so he is in a class all morning every day and then comes to Friedenshaus in the afternoons.  While he studies German, Mohammed is given 400 € each month from social assistance.  He sends 200 € of that to his family every month.  When I asked if the amount he kept was enough for himself, he answered:  “We Syrians can live cheaply.”

I think back to what I was doing when I was 17.  My life was concentrated on playing sports and going to school.  My biggest concern was if I had played well enough in my last game or if my Math mark was high enough.  Mohammed was finding his way on his own and helping his family survive. After I heard his story our conversation went something like this:

Marla: “Das tut mir leid.”  (I am sorry).

Mohammed’s:  “Kein Problem.”

Marla:  “Du hast ein starkes Herz.” (You have a strong heart)

Mohammed: “Ja.”

I am struck by the resiliency and determination of these good people.

German word/phrase of the week: “zu Hause/nach Hause”. It seems like this is a common thread throughout almost every session with beginning German learners. These phrases are used early in German conversations to reinforce their usage and normalcy. But, they are exceptions to normal German usage of these prepositions.

“Zu Hause” means “at home”, as in:  “I am at home. Where are you?” Normally, the word “zu” is used to signify going somewhere, as in “to school” (zu der Schule). But, when you are going home, you say “Ich gehe nach Hause.” The word “nach” usually means “after” as in: I am going after (nach) school. So, you could say:

“Nach der Schule gehe ich nach Hause.”

After school I am going home.

“Nach is used differently in the same sentences. So, you can understand how beginners often mix this up and say “Ich gehe zu Hause”, meaning I am going home. But, they are saying: I am going/walking at home. Perhaps if you had a treadmill in your living room, it would be correct J

Therefore, learn the rules then memorize the exceptions!


One thought on “Feeling “zu Hause”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s