More fun mit deutschen!

Lest anyone think I’m slacking off on learning German, here’s another little gem I picked up this week….

die Eselsbrücke: ‘Mnemonic Device’ aka, a memory trick. In literal German, donkey bridge. Love it. 

I’m already quite familiar with probably the most often-taught Eselsbrücke for Germans learning English. I hear it quite often in class when they’re reminding each other about the present simple with ‘s’…. 

“He She It, ‘s’ muss mit!”
Darn right, ‘s’ must go with he, she and it. But even at the higher levels, you do occasionally hear something along the lines of “He drive by bicycle…” and it just makes you cringe. So when the other students jump in, I’m happy. I’m a big fan of anytime that they correct each other, it’s a lot better than me constantly having to correct them. And before you ask: Yes, I am also working on the whole, RIDE a bike, and RIDE a train and RIDE a bus thing. Details. 

Memory tricks are great, can’t deny that. Now if only I could find a really good one that would make them all understand the present perfect, that would be great. Oh, and one that makes them all remember that it’s not persons, it’s people. I think I’m going to get a foghorn and start honking it every time that I hear ‘persons.’ That ought to do the trick.  

6 thoughts on “More fun mit deutschen!

  1. I love the etymology of Eselsbrücke. When I learned it, I just had to look it up (I think I found my answer on the German wikipedia site). It would seem that donkey are so dang stubborn in their fear of water that they won't step into any body of water if they can't see how deep it is. Which means that they need a bridge even to get them over a measly puddle. And crossing a bridge is no problem for a donkey.

    I love thinking of my brain as a donkey needing some coaxing to get across the bridge over the puddle.

    I have the “persons” vs. “people” discussion about once per week where I work (and I am the only native English speaker, in an office with several Germans with near-native English skills due to exposure in the U.S. and U.K.). My colleagues complain about other Germans' use of “persons” all the time; I have to remind them that it's not incorrect, but just bad form.

    To me, “persons” sounds very clinical, like something on a sign on a door. “Persons requiring access to the server room must apply at the security office.” Far too often, however, it shows up in casual conversation, which I hesitate to classify as “wrong,” but rather “inappropriate.”

  2. Agreed, Cliff! Everyone knows that donkeys are stubborn, but I can't say that I knew they had that much of an aversion to water. Fun facts!

    Additionally, I think it would be great if all my brain needed was a little bridge. Thus far, it needs a bit more coaxing.

    And finally, the persons/people thing. Sigh. Of course you are right, and it isn't technically incorrect. And if they're writing a sign, or legal documents, or something along those lines, great. I've tried explaining the fact that it's ok sometimes, but not, as you said, in casual conversations. But alas, that is where it always pops up. “Many persons visit our company,” etc. Gah.

  3. Pingback: Weird and Wacky Wednesday: Donkey Bridge Edition | Heather Goes to Deutschland

  4. Pingback: Building Donkey Bridges: Harry Potter Edition | Heather Goes to Deutschland

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