Building Donkey Bridges: Harry Potter Edition

Edited to add: this is a spoiler-free zone!

It’s been quite some time since I had a decent donkey bridge for something in German.  But before I get to that, I have a bit of a ‘minor differences’ story to tell.

(Side note: if you don’t know what the heck I mean by a donkey bridge, please see this.)

I had an extra spring in my step yesterday morning, and after I taught my early class and stopped by the office, I made a beeline for the big Thalia bookstore in the city center. For it was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child day!

Marry die Katze inspects my prize (after completion).

Marry die Katze inspects my precious (after completion).

Okay, technically Sunday was the release day but since this is Germany, all the Potter enthusiasts had to wait until stores reopened on Monday. The struggle is real.

I had originally wanted to reserve a copy, but never got around to actually doing it, so I was pretty much hoping for the best as I dashed up the three escalators to where they’ve stashed the English books. On my way up, I saw at least three other people wandering around the store with copies, so I was both hopeful that they had it, and worried that they hadn’t ordered enough.

It was hard not to remember the release of the last book,  when I went with my sister and a friend to pick up our books at midnight like the good nerds that we were are. After waiting in the line that wound through the store, everyone was ushered past the counter with stacks upon stacks of the Deathly Hallows to claim their prizes.

In Germany? Minor differences.

I expected at least two stacks of the new book (if there were any left, of course), but when I reached the English section I found four copies left. The stack had clearly been higher but still? Only one stack on the table? In fact, a girl had just picked the book up and then PUT IT BACK when I came around the corner. Who puts the new Harry Potter book DOWN on the DAY IT COMES OUT? What is this world?

Her loss, my gain. I snatched up a book (possibly thinking ‘my preeeecious’ as I did so), did a cursory round through the section, and hotfooted it back down to the registers.

After paying, I headed for a good spot where I could both read and await my friend with whom I had a lunch date. She was a bit late, and I was able to power through the the first few acts before we got our falafels.

With lunch over, it was off to my next class and another good 25 minutes of reading on the train. Two more classes out of the way, and it was back onto the train for more reading. As we approached Fürth, I finished my chapter, and stood up near the door. Since I had about 20 minutes to wait for my next train, I didn’t bother putting the book in my bag because I figured I’d read on the platform in a minute, so I just stuck my finger in place, and got ready to go.

Nope. Not putting it down.

Nope. Not putting it down.

This seems fairly standard, right? Okay, maybe, but first a little background information on why this donkey bridge moment will be memorable for me…

People say that the Franconians are unfriendly. On the whole, I disagree with this, but I’m also forced to interact with them in my classes on a daily basis. In the real world though? People do not talk to each other around here. There is almost no small talk in lines, at the stores, on the trains, none of that. Sometimes it’s a bit different on the weekends, but on commuter trains during the week? Nope. No chit-chat amongst strangers. Therefore, when someone does talk to me, I’m inevitably confused, surprised, caught completely off-guard, and probably look like a total weirdo because I’m so off-balance that I can’t come up with an answer in English, much less in German. In fact, I should probably start mentally preparing for my Christmas trip to the States now or I’m going to run and hide from everyone who tries to make small talk with me.

Back to the train…

A middle-aged gentleman who was sitting a few seats away also got up, and disentangled his bike from its place. He pulled up next to me, looked down, saw the book, and said “lohnt es sich?”

Me: “ummmm, jaaaaa?

I had no idea what the fuck he had just said. No clue. But common sense told me that it was some variation of “is it good?” And I was close. “Lohnt es sich?” basically means “is it worth it?”* so hey… at least my answer made sense, even if it wasn’t very convincing. But in my defense, I was only three-quarters of the way through the book so I guess my opinion was not fully formed yet.

So thank you, Harry Potter, JK Rowling (with John Tiffany & Jack Thorne**), for ensuring that I will never forget the reflexive verb sich lohnen. No guarantees I’ll use it correctly, but let’s fry one fish at a time. Not since the drive-by Snaping incident has Harry Potter proved so useful at helping my Deutsch skills.

*Shout out to, and BV for confirming when I got home. 🙂

**Who can all feel free to send me tickets to the play. Would love to come and I ♥ London.




6 thoughts on “Building Donkey Bridges: Harry Potter Edition

  1. This describes me perfectly “I’m so off-balance that I can’t come up with an answer in English, much less in German”. I left Berlin recently and returned home (Canada) and I still look confused here when someone talks to me. Scars for life…

    PS: I never got the Harry Potter hype. Why won’t someone add to the Lord of the Rings saga? Now, that would be awesome.

    • Hahaha, glad to hear that you can relate! To be fair, I was never big on small talk but at least I could answer like a normal human being. Now? Not so much…
      I didn’t start reading the HP books until the 3rd one was out when I was in college. Totally dismissed them as ‘just for kids’ but I learned the error of my ways. 🙂 Gotta disagree with you on LOTR though. I love those books so much, the thought of anyone but a reanimated JRR Tolkein touching the canon makes me break out in a nervous sweat. 😉

  2. Fun post! My kids are HP devotees, but I’ve only ever read the first one. I read it in German sometime after the third one was published as a language exercise. The day the last one was released (it was my daughter’s birthday) she and I were flying home (to the US) from Scotland, and we made a quick stop at a bookstore to grab it. She finished it, and I looked over at her to see she had tears in her eyes – and she rarely cries. She said she was emotional because she knew there were no more books coming. That must be a very powerful series. I appreciate the fact that it got a whole generation to start reading again!

    I love that you use “donkey bridge” in English – so do I! I have a funny (at least to me) example from class yesterday that I’ll write about as soon as I have time.

    • Thanks Ami! I’ve been (very) slowly rereading them in German as well, with BV to assist my pronunciation. But it’s just not the same as reading them in English. Powerful for sure… I think I cried about five times over the course of the last book, and I’m not much of a crier either. 🙂
      And “donkey bridge” is such a better phrase than “memory trick” and definitely better than “mnemonic device.” No contest!

  3. “Donkey bridge” took me a minute until it occurred to me to translate it to German 😉

    I have never, ever bought a Harry Potter book the day it came out. I’ve read them all but only own two – the rest I borrowed. One of the ones I own came from a stall at the local market back home. It cost me 50p 😉

    • Hahaha. Germans definitely win on that expression. 🙂
      I think I got the last two books at midnight store events because my sister and I were both home in the summer and went together. The others I just picked up asap. I have them all at home still but only one copy here. I’ve also been getting them in German to read with BV, but it’s just not the same. I always think about picking up English copies used, but then I figure that I already have them at home so I can just pick them up when I’m there next time. Because that’s clearly the best use of suitcase space on trips to the US…. Agh, one of these days I’ll get around to it. 😉

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