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What’s with this “Wren” thing?
The oldest extant version of the fable
are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology
Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche
Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”)
collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read
home we were monolingually “High German,” but at school languages were
always my favourite subjects. My first foreign language was English, as is usual
here in Germany. When I was 14, we moved to the area near the Dutch border (near
Borken, with the Achterhoek as neigbouring region in the Netherlands), and there
students can take Dutch at school.
For me this was the first time I could use a foreign language actively on a regular
basis outside school. We went to the Netherlands regularly, at first only for
cheaper gas like everyone else, but later also to visit our friends, go to
the library etc.
It was a peculiar experience that with my school Dutch I was also able
to understand the dialect of our own region better. Soon I understood that
the Low Saxon dialect of the Münsterland is much more “colourful” than Standard
German (just like other dialects are).
This made me more interested in the Germanic languages and eventually
led me to study German and Dutch (as well as history). In the course of my
studies I have also learned Afrikaans, and nowadays I find it the most lekker Lowlands language to speak, listen to and read.
For the past 16 years I have lived here in Cologne (Köln)—famous for its
historic buildings, especially the cathedral, but also for its carnival and
its beer. I was born in the Ruhr Area (Ruhrgebiet), the old industrial area
in Northern Germany, and studied in Belgium for half a year, in the beautiful
city of Leuven.
Language was and is how I make my living: I used to work as a German,
Dutch and occasionally also Afrikaans teacher and have translated a few books
about computer software to and from Dutch. A few weeks ago however, I began
working in the customer service of a big electronics company where I hear,
read, write and speak English, French and especially Dutch on a daily basis.
A multilingual friend of mine once said that everyone should learn a new
language every three years, and I’m trying to live up to this now … In school
I had English, French and Dutch and I also speak Afrikaans, Italian and a bit
of Spanish and Indonesian, and I have some passive knowledge of Low Saxon and
Yiddish. The immigrants I used to work with taught me a little bit of Russian,
but I have forgotten almost all of it. At the moment I am trying to figure
out which language to learn next, maybe Chinese, but making the decision is
difficult for a language junkie like me.
How long have I been a member of Lowlands-L? I think I discovered
the list around 1997; I was absent for a time, and since 2001 I am an enthusiastic
reader again, but shamefully mostly a lurker. The list gives me very interesting
insights into language history, which for me is the most fascinating aspect
of linguistics, but I enjoy the literature parts too, especially in Low Saxon.
It’s also a good thing that Lowlands-L is never wanting in the humour department.