I can’t remember if I wrote anything in this blog about our planned bicycle tour through southern Germany next summer but such is the case. I’ve been studying German with singular devotion the last few months in preparation. People in the know assure me that speaking German is superfluous for Americans in Germany because most Germans speak English nowadays but that matters little to me. I’m not learning German for the sake of the Germans; I’m doing it because I harbor a perversely strong desire to converse in the language of Goethe, Einstein and Hitler. I’ve heard German dismissed as “guttural” (whatever that means) but it sounds wonderful to me.

I bought the widely promoted Rosetta Stone language software and worked through all five levels in one month. The software was good as far as it went but, as I soon learned when I paired up with an elderly German woman for conversation practice, real-time speech is not multiple choice. It is frustratingly difficult to put together from scratch whole sentences, especially in German with all its arcane word endings. Anyway, after only three sessions with Frau Hubliz we took off on this trip.

I would very much like to find us camping next to some Germans that I could continue my conversation(ing) with. No luck so far. I have high hopes however. A surprising number of Germans vacation in the American Southwest – probably because the climate here in winter is the extreme opposite of the dark, dank German winter. On a number of occasions we have encountered Germans speaking German on the trail, usually in passing, but waylaying them for conversation practice somehow didn’t seem right. But wait! I have a plan.

I am currently reading The Brothers Grimm in German/English format. I was reading the Hansel & Gretel tale when a fiendishly clever plan occurred to me. The sentence “Die Kinder finden den Weg nicht wieder nach Haus, und wir sind sie los. Die wilden Tiere wurden bald kommen und sie zereissen ” (The children won’t find their way home again and we’ll be rid of them. The wild animals will soon come and tear them apart.) stood out as the answer! I excitedly explained to Mary: “When we pass within earshot of some likely Germans on the trail I’ll say those lines to you. If the people aren’t Germans they’ll have no idea what I’m talking about – fine. If they are, they’ll be intrigued by hearing their native language (albeit accented) and stop to talk which is exactly what I want. We might even become friends and I can pal around with the Germans, eventually improving my language skills until I’m nonchalantly tossing off long, fluent German phrases to the utter amazement of passersby.

Mary interrupted this flight of fancy to point out a second possibility: the Germans might think they have overheard two egregious parents planning to abandon their children and call the police. Well, yeah, that could happen, I allowed.

So it’s back to The Brothers Grimm to see if I can’t find better bait with which to set my trap.