I arrived at the Wednesday afternoon language class just as Karl and the students were having a break. I had just met friends from Hamburg who were here for a visit. As I walked in the door I was greeted with a hug by one of our female students, who told me in broken German that she missed me. (We both had not been present for the morning class). After a few handshakes with some of the men, a daughter of one of our regular students also came and gave me a hug. She was grinning from ear to ear, telling me she did not have school today so she had come with her parents to “our school”. This 8 year-old with a captivating smile told me how much fun she was having in these lessons.
When the break ended, our Hamburg friends jumped “onto the boat” and joined a few of the advanced students with greater conversational skills for the remainder of the class. This was a big help on a day when our colleague Gregory was away helping another student with a family matter. By the time the hour had passed, they had an invitation from one of the students for dinner the next day.
In the meantime, Karl continued his work with the beginner students. I often participate in these classes, but on this day I just sat back and marveled at the atmosphere and energy in the room. The people around the table included a 60 year-old grandfather, numerous middle-aged men, a 45 year old mother of three (one of whom was the 8 year old), a couple of 20-something young adult men, as well as a few teenagers.
Most of this hour was spent piecing together a story as a group. The first person began: “Heute Morgen stehe ich um sieben Uhr auf.” (This morning I wake up at 7 o’clock). Most of the time the sentence is not constructed properly so Karl writes it on the board correctly and proceeds to explain any relevant sentence structure for the students. The next person then continues the story, and so on. There is a constant back and forth between the students. Some of them forget what a particular word means, so another student shouts out the meaning in Arabic. More advanced students are asking about parts of the sentences that are affected by dative prepositions like ‘zur’ or ‘bei’. At one point, there is confusion between the words Küche (Kitchen), Kirche (Church) and Kirsche (Cherry), which all sound a lot alike. We all have a chuckle and then laugh even more when we learn the Arabic word for a rather large stomach sounds the same as “Kirsche”. When the story is wrapping up and one of the teenage girls constructs a sentence about going to sleep and dreaming, Karl asks what she is dreaming about. Unable to say, Karl asks if she “von Liebe träumt” (dreams about love). Again, laughter erupts. As the story and class end, everyone claps. It is, of course, a thank you to Karl for teaching this group and making it fun. But really it is applause for each person, all of varying abilities and confidence, for being part of this learning. I couldn’t help but smile. Friedenshaus, in some ways, was a concept that grew out of a dream about “love and peace.” Maybe it is becoming that reality.
A big thank you to our friends from Hamburg. Marike was our youngest daughter’s German exchange partner. She, along with her parents Michael and Karolin, were very excited to not only visit us, but also participate in our classes at Friedenshaus. We had great fun talking about German idioms with our advanced students.
German Word of the Week: Since we spent so much time talking about idioms, it’s only appropriate that we share a couple.
“Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm” (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree) is the same in German and English, and very similar in Arabic (we learned). We used this a few times as Marike and her parents were sharing ideas and explanations in class, noting how the daughter resembled her parents in many ways.
“Wir drücken dir die Daumen” (we wish you good luck) literally means to press or squeeze your thumb for someone. When I first shared this expression, one male student heard me say “Damen” (which means ‘ladies’ in English). We had a good laugh about that and weren’t sure if squeezing ladies would bring them luck or not!