Wednesday, February 11, 2009


My first Christmas in Germany was a bit tense. I was sad not to be with my family, except for my sister who had come to visit. Together we attempted to make Christmas cookies and that was a bust due to different ingredients and a faulty oven. Then there was the issue of the lights and how many belonged on the tree, and last, but not least, were the Christmas cards.

Cards in general, aren't a high point of German correspondences. This is a bit tragic for people, like me, that love stationery. I knew what I was up against, and so I purchased all of my cards in the US and brought them here for various holidays, occasions, and celebrations. I wasn't as prepared as I thought considering if my American cards were remotely a few millimeters too big, according to the German standard, I would be charged 5€+ for one simple card.

Writing the Christmas cards wasn't one of Stefan's priorities. (This did, however, give me a greater appreciation for the letters he had written me over our 2 years apart.) He always had better things to do, which left me in a tough predicament. I was sending cards to my friends and family, so I wanted to include his as well. I had the duty of writing cards to people in a language I could hardly speak, let alone write. As forgiving as I knew people would be, I wanted to sound somewhat coherent and intelligent. We agreed that he would write down what I should write and that I would address the cards before I wrote them out. (I realize it sounds like I got the short end of the stick in addressing them and writing them, but I really do enjoy this kind of thing.)

As I was addressing the cards I learned writing 'Oma Lastname' wouldn't be delivered like it would in the US. More envelopes to rewrite. Then, as I wrote the capitol letter 'G' the way I had been taught, the way that hardly anyone does, I heard 'What is that?!'

I went from slightly irritated to saying if I was going to be criticized for how I was doing it that it wasn't going to be my problem. As the situation escalated my sister could see both of our frustrations. We searched online for our proof that this is how it's supposed to be done in the US. Low and behold German cursive is entirely different. I've since learned the cursive I learned (as seen above) is now somewhat archaic. Thank heavens that old 'G' remains the same, even if letters 'F', 'T', 'Q', and 'Z' are now closer to their printed counterparts in 'New American Cursive'. The website is pretty funny. It says to end the letter 'a' with a smile and it makes it sound as though 'extra strokes' are like running a 10K.

Online there are a myriad of sites dedicated to 'Old German', but we couldn't find many online for the 'New German cursive'.

Thankfully my German teacher was able to give me a nice example of German 'Schreibschrift' that I could share. It's interesting how much things are evolving to look much the same (especially if you look at old 'Deutsche Schreibschrift' that most Germans can no longer read). Our teacher told us she often has a hard time reading the handwriting of people from other countries. Even though we may use the same Latin alphabet, we're not taught to write the same way.

In my last German class, we had a brash Russian woman that asked if I 'always write like that'. She loved to pick faults with the teacher and she couldn't get a grasp as to why the teacher printed her notes for us to copy. Never mind the logic of it being more legible. The Russian woman is no longer with the group, but even if she was I know she would go into a dissertation on why everyone else was wrong in their way of writing along with everything else.

This is an interesting article about the importance of the written word. I'm still clinging to it in the technologic era. I remember how exciting it was to learn in 2nd grade. I felt as if I was getting a secret code to a hidden world. I still fondly recall laying on my Grandparent's living room floor and trying with all my might to master it or to have someone teach me before my time. What a tragedy if people can no longer read handwriting!


Bluefish said...

I tried to write 'G' like yours in 5th grade, but it looked quite funny.

I write my 'Q' in a weird a '2'.

Anonymous said...

I did not know that! Very interesting since my last name may begin with a G some day. Why do we always have to be different about the silliest things??