Achtung Baby Or Not Content With Two Languages!

26/05/2011 14:45 | Updated 22 May 2015
Achtung Baby or Not content with two languages!Rex Features

As if the German language were not nightmarish enough to get your head around, here in the North they have what they describe as a dialect.

Describing Plattdeutsch as a dialect is a bit like describing Welsh as a variation on English. It's not. Those who speak it, mostly, but not exclusively the older generation, delight in telling me this "dialect" is similar to English. It's not. There are some similarities with standard German but not many. Our neighbour speaks Plattdeutsch and despite my fluent German, he sounds to me like he's speaking in tongues.

Our elderly neighbours speak Plattdeutsch. Finje spends a lot of time there. They are both in their seventies and have both time and patience. They also have chickens, sheep, cats, pigeons and a seemingly never ending supply of Gummi Bears. It's Finje's House of Fun.

I simply assumed the neighbours switched to standard German (they can do that when they want to) when speaking with her.

So imagine my amazement when I toddled round the back of the house this afternoon to see if she intended to return home at some point. As is so often the case, I heard her before she came into view. She was chatting away to Helmut (yes, really) and I strained to hear what she was jabbering about. I couldn't understand much. That's not unusual in itself as she often blithers on in the language of Planet Zob. Strangely though Helmut appeared to understand.

Unbeknown to be, Finje has picked up Plattdeutsch and was conversing quite happily and fluently in it.

I considered my response before making my appearance. This rather impressive extra string on her bow had not been previously mentioned, either by Finje or the neighbours. She obviously wasn't really aware of it and they took it as read that she could do it. I decided to carry on as though it were the most normal thing in the world to discover your child speaks a third language, whilst all the time resisting the urge to high five the sheep.

Stick that in your hat "Speech Test" woman.


Achtung Baby
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