By Clarissa Dale
When I was 15, I studied German GCSE. I despised it. No offence to any German’s reading this, but I always thought it was such an ugly language, and so difficult to pronounce. My teacher gave me very little attention because she knew I had no intention of continuing with it past that year, so I found myself making small paper houses and flowers out of practise exams at the back of the room. A term before our final tests, we were assigned pen pals. ‘Conversing with a native speaker will help with the fluency of your writing’ Said Frau Elders. Some of my friends were seemingly quite delighted by this. However, this was not my idea of fun. I had five close friends at school that barely understood me as it was, I didn’t want another one who I would struggle to communicate with.
As a 15 year old with a face full of braces and eyes that protruded a little bit too far out of my face I was awkward and obtuse, with no intention to embarrass myself with feedback letters revealing that my German grammar was appalling. We had a week period to compose our letters and send them off. I avoided the task until the night before the deadline. I decided to start writing, her name was Anna, which is my middle name. Great! This can be the topic of conversation for the whole letter…
‘Hallo Anna, mein zweiter Vorname ist Anna, auch’. ‘Ich denke, das ist gut.’
(Hello Anna, my middle name is Anna too, I think this is good.’) Additionally I copied a few text book phrases and was done with it.
A truly pathetic attempt, but as far as I was concerned this letter disclosed enough information about me. I drew a picture of myself with bright yellow hair in a small green kilt, which was my uniform, not an outfit of my choice.
The letter I received back was an embarrassing reminder the German’s incredible efficiency and skill when it comes to learning a foreign language. A three page letter in a fluid inky script revealed more than I knew about the majority of my cousins. Clearly their six hour English lessons have got nothing on our 45 minutes a week.
Marc asked us to get in contact with old friends this holiday. Not that I ever counted Anna as a friend, but a part of me always felt a strong pang of guilt at my lack of effort towards our correspondence. If there was ever a time to write, I guess this was it. 5 years later…
Weirdly, I have her on Facebook. I wrote out a very small and timid post, telling her that I was planning on visiting Hamburg in the summer with my family, to visit some friends. I made no attempt to write it in german, mostly for fear that she would laugh at me, or worse, post it to her twitter or something. I asked her where would be good for me to visit. I wished her a very happy new year and hoped she is getting on well at university. Despite my fear of rejection I still clicked send, I’m looking forward to seeing what she replies.