Copies of Joey and the Jet boat are travelling with me just in case I find the right person for them. I was thinking a young child rather than the Swiss primary school teacher who shared her collection of German children’s books with me and I was able to add Joey and the Jet boat to her collection of English children’s books. That is the kind of gift-giving I like: a children’s book lover who was familiar with the Queenstown setting of the book.
Now I am back to reading children’s books. Simple language and illustrations tell stories about pirates, happy bears and adventurous mice going to the moon. The reading is slow but provides a safe space for me to sound out the words. I enjoy decoding the words into the story, taking in the little lessons behind each tale and learning to read German.
I must be a read-write learner because listening and speaking German is so difficult. People speak too fast and I only end up with the last two words of their sentence to decipher. The sounds are difficult to speak and I am constantly sounding out my vowels – a, e, i, o, u, just like when I was learning Māori at school. German is consistent with Maori vowel sounds but German has extra vowel sounds to clarify the pronunciation ä, ö and ü.
It is a very phonetic language and if I hold my mouth the right way I can sound out my words, but the grammar offers different challenges. I did not know there were so many variations of a verb and the German language enjoys joiningwordstogether to make one big word.
Mark Twain describes it beautifully in his 1880 essay titled “The Awful German Language”
Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp. One is washed about in it, hither and thither, in the most helpless way; and when at last he thinks he has captured a rule which offers firm ground … He runs his eye down and finds that there are more exceptions to the rule than instances of it