• Politics
  • Amok Mama: Hypocrisy and mendacity


Amok Mama: Hypocrisy and mendacity

If being bilingual in English and German is this precious gift we give to our privileged expat children, then being bilingual in Turkish and German can't be THAT bad, for fuck's sake.

Image for Amok Mama: Hypocrisy and mendacity
Photo by Ralf Roletschek (Wikimedia Commons; CC)

“There’s rarely been this level of hypocrisy and mendacity in Germany, ladies and gentlemen!” That’s what Angie said about the whole Guttenberg affair, although it sounded much, much better in German:

“So viel Scheinheiligkeit und Verlogenheit gab’s selten in Deutschland.

What a beautiful sentence, huh? It’s a beautiful, perfect sentence, I think. It’s really absolute and serene, and, ironically, or perhaps, aptly enough, is in itself a totally hypocritical and mendacious sentence – as if Angie, who is actually a scientist, thought it was morally okay for KT to pay some impoverished ghostwriter to copy and paste huge chunks of newspaper articles and pass them off as a doctoral thesis. Yeah, right. I think it was a bit off and I can’t even remember if yogurt’s a liquid or not.

Anyways, she only says that, our Angie, because she doesn’t know any English-speakers in Berlin. English-speakers in Berlin are hypocritical and mendacious on a daily basis. An example:

Me: “Okay, Rico, listen, you’ll be in Hort longer today, okay? I mean, I’ll pick you up as soon as I can, but it’ll be longer.”

Rico, sighing: “I like it when you come and get me at 5:00, Mum.”

Me: “Yeah, but I gotta work.”

Him, generously: “Awright.”

Me: “Don’t forget your Pendelmappe. Give me a kiss.”

Him, halfway through our Abschiedskuss: “Oh, Mum, don’t forget that Zettel!”

Another mum – an English lady – had been watching (and listening to) – our whole conversation, and after Rico had dived into the classroom, she came up to me, and started having an earnest conversation.

“You mix the languages too much, you know that? And that means the minority language will suffer. It will suffer. What you really need to try to do, is to avoid speaking German to Rico whatsoever.”

I looked at her blankly. “I never speak to him in German,” I said, which is a bit of a lie, to be honest. I do schimpf him in German, a bit. I love saying: “Was soll das?” when he’s poured Rice Krispies down the toilet or drawn bats all over the bathroom door with marker pen just because it’s Halloween. The only good translation for “Was soll das?” is “What the fuck?” and as you all know, I only swear at him as an absolute last resort.

“But you said loads of German to him just then. Hort, Pendelmappe. And he said Zettel.”

I grimaced. “That’s because there are no English words for Hort or Pendelmappe or Zettel.”

“After-school care,” she said, comfortingly. “Homework folder. Piece of paper.”

I looked at her in disgust and shock and really rather negative emotions like that.

“After-school care,” I said, dismissively, “is too long a word to bother saying every day of your life for the next five years. The Pendelmappe commutes between home and school! That’s why it’s called a Pendelmappe! And a Zettel,” I said decisively, “is far, far more important than a piece of paper. You can lose a piece of paper. Or draw on it. But a Zettel. A Zettel is for keeping, and handing in and stuff.”

She looked at me and sighed in sympathy.

“I think you have a totally damaged relationship to your native tongue, to be honest. How long have you been here? I think you need to start thinking about your identity. All you’re responsible for is Rico’s English, the school will teach him German. And if you have a weird relationship to your own language, Rico will sense it. And it’s a gift you’re giving him, by raising him bilingually. It’s a gift. It’s a precious gift. He’ll thank you, in the future.”

I scowled at that. “Well, if that’s true,” I said, sulkily, “why are we meant to be so worried about the Turks? If that’s true, Erdogan’s right, and we can all chill the fuck out and stop having a hernia every time a Turkish kid starts school aged six and can’t speak a word of German yet.”

The English lady looked a bit taken aback. “Oh, no,” she said. “The situation with the Turks is totally different.”

“How?” I said.

“It’s a totally different situation,” she said.

“In what way?” I said.

“It’s just different.”

“How?” I repeated.

“Well,” she said, “Turkish isn’t a world language, you know.”

So now you know, guys. Turkish isn’t a world language. They probably speak it on the moon, on Mars and on Jupiter. Even in other galaxies and places like that. Funny, huh: the whole time in Hollywood movies they get the aliens to speak English and actually they should have been giving it “Hos geldiniz demek planet jüpiter!

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, the ironic thing is, we human beings are all so desperate, so despairingly, devastatingly desperate, to be different from each other, and yet in actual fact we’re all exactly the fucking same: hypocritical, mendacious cowards who can only feel good about ourselves by shitting on each other. If being bilingual in English and German is a precious gift, then being bilingual in Turkish and German can’t be THAT bad, for fuck’s sake. Let’s try and not be total iki yüzlü for once in our lives.