Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Four Languages and a Funeral

Saturday we attended our dear friend HW's funeral in his fatherland Germany.

The trip there in our new "used" car went better and quicker than we had expected, especially in the misty, snowy freezing weather. For an Easter Saturday morning the autobahns were surprisingly not too busy, since we were very early and the road condition was not optimal. As you can imagine, we were both glad when we arrived at the chapel one and one-half hour before the service.

Everyone you speak to thinks that reuniting with your extended family only at funerals is really a shame. At least we still have some connection with those who are dear but not always near to us. After the first couple of minutes chatting, the years that have passed since the last time you saw each other seem to vanish. Then you know that you may be "out of mind," but you are never "out of heart."

Funerals are really great reunions. Years ago while traveling with my parents in Europe, we had dinner in a restaurant where relatives of a deceased family member were having dinner together after the funeral. Both of my parents remarked how good it was that the surviving family members had the opportunity to get together around a dinner table and enjoy themselves with fond memories of the deceased and of the living family members.

Our situation on Saturday was even more unique. There were four different languages being spoken at the coffee/reception following the funeral. The deceased spoke all four languages fluently, and that was basically because his family is so multi-lingual and because they have married into different cultures with different languages. First off, German HW married my hub's Dutch cousin around 50 years ago in The Netherlands. Their oldest son who studied in Germany and in The Netherlands (and who stayed with us for a couple of months near Rotterdam), married a Dutch lady. Their two sons are studying in a German high school. HW's only daughter studied at German and Dutch schools and later worked in England and Spain. She married a Spanish fellow who speaks some English and Dutch, and they now have two children who attend Spanish schools and do a good job speaking Dutch and are learning German and some English.

HW's youngest son studied in Germany and The Netherlands, and he speaks German and Dutch fluently. (He also aways speaks English with me.) His partner is German, and from what I could tell around the table only speaks German.

The fourth language was of course my English, which Europeans call "American English." Before I moved to Europe in the late 70's, I thought there was only one English language. Can you imagine telling a Nederlander (Dutchman) that he speaks "Nederlands Nederlands" ? 

As always, I get a headache from these different languages! What happened to "broken English"? We are all pretty fluent in that!

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