Sunday, May 6, 2012

The ball is mightier?


In the German language, syntax differs greatly from that of the English language in that the second verb in a sentence belongs at the end.  For example, in English we would say:

Andrea wants to go to the party.

The verb "to want" is followed directly by the second verb: "to go."  But watch what happens to the second verb when we translate it into German:

Andrea will zur Party gehen.

To demonstrate this linguistic peculiarity to my German 1 students, I've taken to throwing tennis balls around the room, telling them to throw that second verb to the end of the sentence.  I do this to provide a mental image to accompany this grammar rule, but I'll admit I also like throwing tennis balls at kids' heads.

After talking to my dad this afternoon, I learned that his high school German teacher back in the early 60's had a similar method.  Instead of "throwing" the verb to the end of the sentence, however, my dad and his classmates were told to "shoot" the verb to the end of the sentence, at which point his teacher pulled a World War II era German Luger on them.

For some reason my dad never forgot that lesson.

1 comment:

  1. And my German teacher, Herr Kempner, used to say "Immer mit der Ruhe," accompanied by an appropriate hand signal. In English he once told me, "Keep the ball in play. No yellow cards."


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