Frau Kouevi was our German teacher in school. We were the first set of pupils in our school to do German, linguistic guinea pigs, effectively. All five of us in the class were only allowed to learn German because we already proficient in another language, French. Those in our group were the doyens of French, which was more or less a second first language to most of us. What could a little bit of Bratwurst and Jugend Arbeiter do to us? Nothing, we thought. Heavens, were we wrong.
Possibly from the very first lesson, Frau Kouevi warned us that German was an incredibly difficult language, and that none of us would ever get above a B. To the suspicious eye, this is but a curse. Our new teacher was dooming us to the nothingness of Bs and Cs, even before an umlaut could be dotted in anger. I wouldn't take such a statement lying down. Over the next three years, right up to GCSEs, I worked harder in German than in any other subject.
And I was the best at it. But I still never got above a B. And in Year 11 when I was good enough to get the school prize for German, I still only got a B for GCSE. At the time I was learning German, I never thought about what use it would be. The only thing on my mind was some obscure polyglot record, which I still haven't broken. After all only Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have German as an official language, it isn't as widely spoken as French or Spanish.
But I'm off to Germany today, for that little thing called the World Cup. And even though an unscrupulous human trafficker might try to sell me, at least I know how to order Black Forest cake in German. Who cares if you don't know how to say, "don't shove me in the lorry, I'm not an illegal immigrant" when I can always tell them, "Ich mochte ein Schwarzwald Kuchen bitte". I might be in a cramped lorry with fifteen Iraqi refugees, but who cares? I'll have a Black Forest gateau, and they won't.
Frau Kouevi, this is for you. Danke schon. Entschuldigung. Nein. Ja. Schwarzwald Kuchen. Bratwurst. Those should last me a month. I'll be fine.