You Know You Go To A German Ethnic School In Australia If…

… “Which language?” is a valid question when starting a game of Scrabble with your friends.

… 14% of Australian Year 12s study a language other than English. 90% of your class studies a language other than English and German.

… You can understand the German original title on your AMEB piano music, and know that it was translated incorrectly into English.

… When discussion about career paths and uni choices comes up, you all admit that there’s at least one person in your family that wants you to be a translator for the UN/EU/Australian embassy/German embassy/SBS/Eurovision. However, you quickly decide that none of the languages any of you speak is “exotic” enough – and between the eight of you, you speak ten different languages.

… A game of “snakes and ladders” tells you to give four German first names, so you list your teachers (well, the other option is to give Mozart’s baptismal name).

… All of your friends are bilingual, and you feel a little stupid because you’re really just monolingual, and German is your second language.

… You have nightmares about Karneval/Fastnacht/Fasching celebrations at your school… Which involve the “Hokey Pokey”, “Kopfen, Schulten, Knien, und Füssen”, and “Schnappi”.

… Almost everyone in your class pronounces their name two different ways, depending on which language they’re speaking.

… You and your friends buy, and munch on, Brezeln bigger than your handspan, during Pause.

… While waiting for your Spanish exam in the SACE language orals holding yard, you run into your Dutch-speaking friend from German School, who’s waiting for her French exam.

… You’ve ever wondered if you’re just part of some strange experiment on Hochdeutsch or vocab control.

… Being a dual- (or even tri-)national is completely normal. Even if neither of your passports is from the DACH.

… You actually know that DACH, when capitalised, doesn’t mean ‘badger’ (or ‘trousers’ [dacks]).

… Berliners mean a party – usually Fasching or Weihnachtsfest.

… Flying for 26 hours (50-hour round trip) every year or two is considered perfectly normal.

… You know the terms for various grammatical concepts in German, and don’t understand when a teacher’s using the English translation to explain the same concept in another language.

… It’s not recess. Or even smoko or break. It’s Pause. Get that? Pow-Za.

… Your teacher sends you an e-mail, and changes languages at least four times in it – usually halfway through a sentence.

… Most of your class flew before they could walk. Several times.

… You’ve ever shaken your head and wondered how your teachers can possibly believe you don’t know the swear words. (It’s called TV. Or Fernsehen. Take your pick.)

… No-one at school bothers asking where you’re from – they ask either where you live, or where your parents are from.

… When you get bored on an aeroplane going to Spain, you watch “Alvin and the Chipmunks” in German. (You haven’t actually seen it in English yet).

… One of your teachers inevitably disappears for three to eight weeks every year… but that’s all right, because you know she’s in Germany. (And she’ll probably bring back textbooks and chocolate for you.)

… Ritter is your favourite brand of chocolate.

… You actually get German jokes and humour.

… Someone asks what school you go to, and you realise that “Deutsche Schule” isn’t the right answer. Oh, that’s right, you go to school during the week, too.

… You only ever get your favourite brand of chocolate after your teacher gets back from Germany.

… Someone in your class was talking about an annoying person they’d sat next to on a ‘plane once, and finished the story with, “But that was all right; it was only a seven-hour flight.”

… You know all or most of the words to “Schnappi, das kleine Krokodile” by heart.

… Sometimes you’re not actually sure which language your teacher is speaking… but you can understand everything anyway.

… The answer to everything is “Nee”. Your teacher picks you up on it half an hour before your year 12 oral exam, and you all mutually decide that saying “Nein” sounds silly.

… There are eight in your class. Eight of you speak English and eight speak German. Seven speak or learn French, three learn Spanish, two speak or learn Dutch, Russian, and Japanese, and one speaks Swiss German.

… When you were in Year 10, your teacher realised that your class was being bored to death by the state-mandated Year 12 curriculum, and so went to Germany and bought you textbooks for adults learning several CEFR bands higher than Year 12s are meant to be.

… You’ve ever wondered how, exactly, people from West Berlin got to the rest of West Germany.

… You always pronounce composer’s names the German way, even when the average person can’t understand who you’re talking about, and it annoys the examiners.

… You believe that the DSD was devised solely for torturing second-language learners (and some expat kids).

… You call your principal by her first name.

… You can discuss philosophical topics in depth in German, but have no idea what the words for commonplace things like scissors or a fork are.

… You live quite near “Australia’s Oldest German Town”, but can’t stand the place because there are signs that say such things as “The Haus”, “Sells Gifts and Geschenke”, and “Hahndorf Kaffeehause”… And really, no-one in that town outside of the old folk’s home actually speaks German. Certainly not anyone in any of the shops. Despite the German signage on said shops.

… You can never remember which definite article to use, so you just speak really fast and pronounce them all as “duh”.

… Your class is asked to fill out a survey for high school students about learning languages, and you collectively get stuck on the second question: “What is your nationality?”

… You can usually identify when someone’s speaking Dialekt, and which one, but you wouldn’t dare speak one yourself.

… When you go on an excursion for Hahndorf (Australia’s oldest German town), your teachers, who speak English with thick accents, have to translate your orders at the (“German Arms”) restaurant at lunch. (Because it’s still German School, and you’re not allowed to speak English at German School).

… You feel comfortable using German to discuss a wide range of current and historical events, philosophical topics, and special interests… But a simple novel has you stumped.

… You go to school on Saturdays.

… You know exactly what acronyms like DSD and KMK stand for – massive headaches.

… You see Gummibärchen in a local shop, and speak German to the cashier without thinking.

… Someone in your class gets special consideration for internally-marked assessments, because she’s from Switzerland and uses different spelling. (But she still has to use ess-zeds for exams).

… You don’t know how to spell ess-zed (β).

… You know the names of all of the German states and their capital cities… but if someone uses the English name, you have no idea what they’re talking about.

… Anyone pronouncing any foreign word the wrong way really bothers you. (Up to and including “croissant”, but particularly the way everyone seems to pronounce “braun”, a common sur- and street- name in your area, “brawn” [and not “brown”. Seriously, people, it’s pronounced the same way!]).

… You meet a classmate at a holiday Spanish-language workshop, and immediately start speaking to each other in German.

… You say “Wien” and “München”, not “Vienna” and “Munich”.

… You start learning the organ, and you can already understand the labels on the stops.

… You swap to Spanish to say something to your friend, because your teacher and the boys can understand the German (and the French).

… You think of languages in terms of the CEFR system.

… You watched Kommissar Rex when you learnt German at public school, but the teachers have all but forbidden it at Deutsche Schule because it’s in Dialekt.

… You use very complex sentence structures in casual speech and quick writing, but almost invariably get the gender wrong.

… You were given Gummibärchen for a correct answer when you were younger.

… You will always call them “Gummibärchen”, even in an English-speaking situation.

… You know what a real Brezel looks and tastes like.

… Your class was ever given a free Brezel each in the middle of an exam by your principal.

… Even in French, where it’s called a “trema”, you still refer to the two dots above a vowel as an “umlaut”.

… You’re playing scrabble, and exceptions are made for words in other languages, provided the majority knows that word (or language).

… Your teacher is away, and you automatically assume she’s in Germany.

… You’ve been known to use both “es ist uns besser” and “it goes us better”.

… You’ve also used both “du bist richtig!” and “you’ve got right!”.

… You’ve been on over 80 flights yourself, but it’s one of the lower figures in the class.

… You call one of your favourite TV shows “Kommissar Rex”, even though in Australia it’s known as “Inspector Rex”.

… You’ve heard three sides to both of the Wars, and the gap in between, and side with the German people up until 1940 (not Hitler. The people).

… Your friends constantly bemoan how expensive Gummibärchen are now they’re living Australia.

… Your teacher corrects your work, pointing out over a dozen mistakes, and finishes it with, “You’re really writing at a very high level of German.”

… Your teacher starts speaking to you in Spanish once she realises you’re learning it, and you just stare at her in confusion for a long while, and then reply in German (because, really, Spanish with a  German accent?).

… Your Year 12 class has students aged from 14 to 18, in years 10 to 12 of “normal” school.

… At least one of your classmates started coming to school as a teenager, after emigrating around the age of 8, able to speak fluent German but unable to spell it at all.

… Someone at your (English-speaking) day school asks you if you know any good tongue-twisters, and the first one that comes to mind is, “Wenn hinter Fliegen Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fliegen Fliegen nach.” The second is, “Heute kommt der Hans zu mir, freut sich die Lies. Kommt er über Unterammagau, oder ob er aber über Oberammagau, ist nicht gewiss!“ It’s only on the third try that you remember Peter Piper.

… You can’t stand the little hard pretzels you can buy at the supermarket – you insist on calling them “Brezelchen” (or “quatsche Brezelchen”).

… You feel more than a little jealous of the younger children in the schoolyard, because they’re speaking perfect German to each other.

… One of your friends tells you how annoying it is that all of her friends back in Europe have already started uni, and she’s still in high school.

… You know that your level of German is far beyond that of an average Year 12 German-language student… but you still feel like you can barely speak it, and know you’re the worst German-speaker in your class.

… Your English surname really stands out in the roll.

… You’ve ever sung “In der Weihnachtsbäckerei” in front of a large number of geriatrics.

… 99% of your friends are bilingual, or at least speak a second (or third, or fourth) language.

… When you go to Spain, you spend the whole time wishing someone would speak German to you, just so you could communicate fully.

… You’ve ever seen men in Lederhosen and little girls in Dirndl wandering around your school.

… You graduated from school two years ago, and you’re now in university, and you’re seriously considering enrolling as a mature-age parent because you miss it so much.

If you go to a German school yourself, in Australia or the US, or have any similar experiences, please feel free to add more in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “You Know You Go To A German Ethnic School In Australia If…

  1. […] Seinnidh mi leis a’ chloinne ‘n uair a nì mi babysitting, agus ‘n uair a sheinneas mi leis a’ chloinne, seinnidh mi òran bheag, ma “Schnappi, das Kleine Krokodile”, “Die Henne Karolin”, no “Was hat wohl der Esel gedacht?”. (Uill… nì mi babysitting le cloinne às mo sgoil, an sgoil Gearmailteas). […]

  2. […] before on here, in an “oh, by the way” sort of way. Even though I’m Australian, I went to the German Ethnic School, and I spend a lot of time on the internet claiming to be a Scottish Gael. I’ve never really felt […]

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