Let me preface this post with the following:
I love German.
I also love Saturdays.
I love a butter pretzel.
I love my children.
There. We have it.
I grew up in the southern U.S. in the 70’s and 80’s. Having grown up in the States, the concept of Saturday school was foreign to me. My parents, both German, spoke German with one another as I grew up but only under certain circumstances. German was their sort of ¨secret language¨- the one that was used as they tried to make certain that my brother and I had no idea what they were talking about. This trick worked on my younger brother but less on me. In the early 80’s my mom decided that my brother and I should enjoy Saturday school at the Goethe-Institut in Atlanta.
After what even I remember to be a painful two years, my parents’ experiment was a fail. We had whined and moaned our way out of those few hours of peace my parents had. We had not learned German as they had envisioned and obviously the battle was not worth it anymore. And so my Saturdays we free for watching Super Friends and Scooby Doo.
30 years later it was my turn to impart the knowledge I had gathered as a child. We moved to Canada when our daughter was six and our son was four. OPOL was chosen to support the kids and their mother tongue. But a year after moving here we realized OPOL was not working for the little one as well as we hoped. My kids would would now learn: Saturday school is no fun. I felt bad that the kids would have to suffer as I did so many years before (but not enough to not send them to Saturday school).
What I realized within the first week, however was a big difference between my experience and that of my kids. First of all, butter pretzels were not part of Saturday school at the Goethe-Institut of Atlanta circa 1980. In fact, I don’t think there were any pretzels south of the Mason-Dixon line back in the day.
My kids, lucky creatures that they are, do have butter pretzels as part of German school. In fact, in order to get the kids & parents to the school on time, there are a limited number of pretzels available every week. Only those who get to school a few minutes before school starts will get a pretzel. Amazing! You should see the speed with which my son puts his shoes on when Daddy says ¨We need to leave now or there won’t be a butter pretzels.¨
So if a butter pretzel is the carrot then we can’t forget the stick. The stick we use on our kids is: ¨If you want to enjoy baseball practice or ride horses, then you must go to German school.¨ And done. The kids are heading off to German school this year with nary a complaint. And they get a pretzel, which is what its all about.