Unexpected Christmas Difficulties

He may be a little young for it, but we decided to get our son a toddler bike similar to this one:

Most kids here learn to ride a bike this way, and they start as a toddler. He might not use it much until this spring, but since there are such a wide variety of these bikes we wanted to get him one while we were here and had the means to ship it home.

I found a model on sale at one of the larger local stores, and need to do some grocery shopping. I lugged back my groceries and this large box with the bike in it as well as one of those “doodle-pads” (the latter of which we hope to use to keep him occupied on the plane). And it was raining and cold. It was one of the rare times I wished I had a car.

As soon as I walked in the door my overly excited husband started opening up the box. He’s really loving being a father, and can’t wait to help his son ride a bike. Being Switzerland, he of course found instructions in German, Italian, and French. “Good luck, honey,” I said as I went to put my groceries away. I’m pretty proud of him, though. Using only the pictures, and asking me for help with one word in French, he put the wee bike together.

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Some Helpful Langauge for Visiting (Northern) Switzerland

Ok, so my phonetics are probably a bit off, but I thought this might help someone so I’m publishing it anyway. One of our visiting friends wanted to learn a few more phrases, so I made this list for her of the words and phrases I use the most in my every day speech here in northern Switzerland and I think would be most helpful to a visitor. These are spelled as I hear them, definitely not written correctly. The accented syllables are in all-caps. I also simplified the pronunciations, as the subtleties in the language are hard to understand unless you hear them.

Hello/Good Day: GROOT-zee

Good Bye: Off-VEE-der-shane *or you can say* AD-dju

Please/You’re Welcome: BIT-eh

Thank You: DANK-eh

Good Evening: SHONE-en-AH-big

Good Morning: GOO-teh MORG-eh *or you can say* MORG-eh

Check, Please!: TZAHL-en BIT-eh

Excuse me/Pardon me: en-TCHOOL-deh-gung *or you can say* eh-SKOOSE-ee

How much does this cost?: vee feel costet das?

I am sorry, I don’t speak German. Do you know English?: en-TCHOOL-deh-gung, ich SPREK-eh KINE-eh deutsch. KENnen-zee ANG-lish?

Bag or Sack: TASH-eh

A few numbers:
1 ein
2 svie
3 dry (or in Swiss German “dru”)
4 fear
5 funf
6 sex
7 zeben
8 ahhcht
9 noyn
10 zehn

Feel free to correct my pitiful attempt or add to it. 😉

Vocabulary Fun!

Even though I got really frustrated with learning German, it wasn’t always a struggle. One of the interesting things about learning German is how certain really long words are just a series of words strung together. Once you figure out which word is what, you can usually decipher most or all of the word. One of my favorite words to say (that I have utterly no use for in everyday conversation) is the word for hot air balloon: Heissluftballon. Heiss is hot, Luft is air, and Ballon is balloon. Easy!

I also like how clear-cut and logical the language can be. The word for shoe is Schuhe. The word for gloves is Handschuhe. Get it?

I think that with any language, the first words you should learn are yes, no, hello, please, thank you, and good-bye. Swiss German has some really unique alterations to those basic commands. Most Swiss folks drop the “n” sound off the end of nein, and sometimes their ja sounds more like a “joh”. Bitte is always “please,” but I’ve heard about a half a dozen variations on how to say “thank-you.” The proper (high German) way to say thank-you is Danke schön. You’ll also hear Vielen Dank, Merci Vilmal, Danke Vilmal, Danke, and Merci (said with a German and not French accent). Saying hello the wrong way can also immediately place you as an outsider. Guten Tag may be the proper way to say hello in German, but everyone in (northern) Switzerland always says Grüezi. For more than one person, you can say what I like to call the translation of “Howdy Y’all” or Grüezi Mitenand. You can also tack on the word Mitenand to your good morning (Guete Morge, short for Guten Morgen) and good evening. I have no idea how to spell how the Swiss say good evening, much less pronounce it, but it is a take on the proper Guten Abend and sounds like “chairnobik” to me. The Swiss good-bye is different from high German as well, though you will hear a lot of shop folks say Auf Wiedersehen because it is considered polite. Uf Widerluege is goodbye, but so is the more informal Tschüss or Ciao!

And of course, in any language, you need to know how to order a beer: ein bier, bitte! 😉

Eddie has a German picture book (Mein kunterbuntes Wörterbuch) with all kinds of vocabulary in it – food, animals, parts of the body. I think one of the funniest is the word for skunk, an animal that only lives in the Americas: Stinktier or literally “stinky animal!”

NOTE: In case you were wondering, all proper nouns when written in German have the first letter capitalized, which makes me a little nuts, but I wrote it correctly in this post. 😉

German humor…

On one of our trips back to the states, we bought a card box with 1,000 German words, similar in size and style to the cards used for Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit. While we are eating, we pinch out about a dozen cards and study them. We’d also been watching some cartoons in German earlier in the morning. Here’s a conversation from lunch today between my husband and I.

Me: Ok, next one – “wissen” – it’s a verb.

H: No clue.

Me: It means to know, as in a fact or a skill.

Me: Ok, “die Wissenschaft” – noun.

H (without pausing): Witchcraft!

Me: Erm, no – Science.

H: Bwhahahahhaha!!

(Note for those who don’t know him – my husband, who by trade is a project manager for an engineering firm, is a total science nut, and would be one of the last people in the world to say that science is witchcraft.)