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August 2018 - Year 20 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

Bi-lingual Poem Writing as a Learning Tool

In retirement I have become a learner again in three languages:

Albanian (A1), a rank beginner

French (C 1.5)

German (A2-B1)

I used to write poems in my uni days but very little since.  These last three years I have wanted to again say things in this way.

The CARE-LESS HUSBAND, (see below) came to me in English and then I wanted to share it with my mates in a local German conversation group (here in Kent).  I produced a first German version which was then taken in hand by a friend in Germany. I have gone along, gratefully, with most of Karl’s suggestions/corrections.

However bad you find my original and weak my/our translation I can assure you that these sparse lines have been gone over again and again in both languages. I have, on the way, learnt a great deal of the target language, and in depth. My egoism and pride are heavily involved and the words the German language has lent me to express these thoughts about Peter, sexuality and my wife are now firmly and deeply mine.

Sometimes the making of such pairs of poems is the other way round … the poem is born in the target language and the mother tongue version is its shadow.

I guess there may be a few people in your classes (and I do mean a few) who find poems fun to write… . Maybe you could suggest that they try working bilingually in order to deepen their feel for both mother tongue and the target language. (It would be a goofy enterprise to expect all students to want to work this way.)

After 40 years as a language teacher and 30 as a teacher trainer it is luxurious to be mainly now a language learner!


A Care-less Husband                                 Ein Ehemann um den sich niemand  Kuemmert


Peter has  a carebook                                     Peter hat ein  Pflegebuch

The carers come and go                                Die Pfleger kommen und gehen

Yeah, he has a carebook                               Ja wirklich,  er hat ein Pflegebuch

Tells you all you need to know.                   Darin steht alles was du wissen musst


Peter never married                                      Peter hat nie geheiratet

His girls were ripe and ready                       Seine Maedchen waren reif und bereit

But Peter has a carebook                             Aber Peter hat ein Pflegebuch

That keeps you up-to-date.                         Das dich auf den Laufenden haelt


I’d love to have a carebook                         Ich haette gern ein Pflegebuch

After fifty years of wedlock                         Nach fuenfzig Jahren Ehe                      

( and who was it lost the key?)                   (Und wer war es, die den Schluessel  verloren hat?)

How about a carebook  just for  me?        Wie waere es mit einem Pflegebuch nur fuer mich alleine?


My wife could write her good intentions     Meine Frau koennte ihre  guten Absichten schreiben  

In this carebook for the record.                     In diese Pflegebuch als Beweis fuer die Nachwelt

This might salve her iffy conscience             Dies koennte ihr ungutes Gewissn erloesen

And tell the world                                            Und  der Welt Mitteilen  

                                What                                                                          wie

                                          Might                                                                   es haette

                                                      Have                                                              gewesen

                                                                   Been.                                                    sein  koennen      

Apologies to HLT readers who haven’t chanced on German on their way.