The other day, our friends "the Fakhers" took us on a day trip to Somerhausen, a cute little village of half-timbered houses and surrounded by a fortified town wall that sits only about 30 km from Würzburg. Since we arrived in Germany, they've been beyond attentive -- having us to dinner, taking us ice skating and to the theater, even going with us to look at apartments and translate for our prospective landlords. But as much as I enjoy the excursions, I enjoy their company more. And so rather than explore Somerhausen as I might have done, I was more than content to spend the afternoon with them in one of the town's sagging half-timbered cafés, drinking hot chocolate and chatting in our mish-mash of languages.
As I mentioned earlier, Fakher and Christine speak fluent English (he doesn't even have an accent!), but the children speak only French and German. And since Kevin speaks only English and French and I speak only English and a little German, there's no way for all six of us to speak the same language at the same time. So often it happens that Kevin speaks to Louise in French, and I speak to Léon in broken German with a lot of English thrown in. With only three years of elementary school English, he already speaks English about as well as I speak German.
I'm usually very embarrassed by my pathetic foriegn language skills but not with Léon. It helps that children are less judgmental than adults and that, unlike my German teacher, he isn't constantly stopping me to correct my grammar and pronunciation. With Léon I can speak without inhibition about all manner of things interesting to 10 year olds: movies, video games, street fashion (I taught him the American slang for his Mütze: "doo-rag"), and of course, Harry Potter. We talked all afternoon about the relative merits of volumes I through VI and our theories about Snape's true allegiences and who will die in volume VII. He's also taught me all kinds of useful German words, such as Zauberer (wizard), verwandeln (transform), and fluch (curse).
It was really nice to have a "literary" conversation again, even if it was with a 10 year old, and we've decided to talk more about our shared literary interests in the future. I've recommended he read Jonathan Stroud's "Bartimeaus Trilogy," and he's going to loan me his Cornelia Funke books. But since Funke's books were originally published in German, they're not available in English here. So, I'm going to have to really bone-up on my German before I can attempt them. To this end, I've bought a copy of Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen. I figure that since I've already read it a half-dozen times in English, the German version can't be so hard.