Adelbert von Chamisso, German language, Karl Stählin, research, Sir Francis Walsingham, studying languages
Do you speak German, o Readers?
Now, Italian is my native language – and I find it beautiful. Also, as you can probably guess, I love English very much. I also like French and Spanish.
German… not so much.
And I tried, you know. Back in my previous life, when I worked in the timber trade (no, really) I used to do business in Austria, and travelled there rather frequently – and, because not all sawmills are in Vienna where English is widely spoken, I needed some basic German.
As I said, I tried: I found a tutor, and under her guidance absorbed the basics quickly enough. Soon I was able to complain about the quality of larch wood, ask directions and mostly understand the answer, bargain prices, book a hotel room, explain to a lorry driver how to get from the motorway to my warehouse… Just enough to go by, for the most part – and, with some effort, I could puzzle together the synopsis in an opera programme.
Only… I never liked it.
As a rule, I love languages. I love learning how they work, how they reflect a mindset and a history, and as soon as I have enough of the basics, start trying to tell stories, to read… But not with German. What can I say? I don’t like the hard sounds, the convoluted construction with the verb at the end, the twenty-letter composite words you are supposed to figure out on your own, the haphazard gender*…
Even reading something I already know in Italian or English – my favourite language-learning strategy – didn’t work. I’ll agree that Schiller’s Briefe über Dom Karlos were perhaps the wrong choice – but even the abridged and simplified version of Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (that is, The Miraculous Story of Peter Schlemihl), lies in some shelf or other, abandoned after a few pages of unrewarding effort.
Then I left behind the timber trade, and my dismal attempts at learning German went with it, without the least trace of regret. After all, I can honestly say that I have tried, and thoroughly dislike the stiff, convoluted thing – and, since I have no use for it, that’s that.
Or, that was that until yesterday. Yesterday, As I researched possibilities for Tom Walsingham‘s Book 3, I came across bibliographical perfection, in the form of a very detailed account of something I’ve been very curious about. So far my inquiries on the subject had been rather on the lackadaisical side, and also rather fruitless. Yesterday I bent my back to it in earnest – and lo! There is this entire book, published in 1902, but available on Amazon for a reasonable price… Perfect, isn’t it?
Oh yes, perfect – but for the small fact thatDer Kampf Um Schottland Und Die Gesandtschaftsreise** Sir Francis Walsinghams Im Jahre 1583 is in German.
So far I can find no trace of a translation in any language, and I’m also slightly doubtful about the size of the thing – because I find the book variously described as counting either 48 or 170 pages, as a dissertation, a part of a wider work, or a self-contained volume, published either in Leipzig or Dresden… I incline to think that
Unless one of you, o Readers, should know of a translation? I’d be eternally grateful!
* I don’t remember who asked what can you expect from a language that deems a young girl neutral, while a turnip is female… J.K. Jerome, perhaps? Nizza & Morbelli?
** See that? Gesandtschaftsreise. Eighteen letters. Means “diplomatic mission”.