Today I met a young person from my past for lunch. He’s so big and grown up now. Nowadays he works as a professional programmer, changes soon to one of the most renowned companies in Germany and wants to marry his girlfriend in the near future. I am happy for all these young people who have not given up, although for this society they were „only“ immigrants or muslims. We have worked very hard to be where we are now. We are successful, functioning parts of society and clearly superior to normal „OTTOs“.
When we finally had our coffee together at a local roastery and talked about the past and present, an elderly woman from the next table came to us and lovingly laid her hand on my shoulder. „You know, when I close my eyes, all I hear in your voice is a northern German. You can’t even notice that you are not German,“ the elderly lady said. I smiled. I was used to such „compliments“. But I saw in the lady’s eyes that she meant no harm.
It was not racism that spoke out of her, but recognition. She pointed to my young companion and said: „With him, one or two words keep slipping out into Turkish, when he talks to you. You can notice that his mother tongue is not German. But with you it’s very fascinating.“ I put my hand on her hand and said: „I also speak English, French, Turkish and I am learning some Spanish at work.“
The lady smiled and asked where we were living. I said: „I come from Finkenwerder. And the young man comes from the Veddel. You know, it’s better to learn German behind the dike.“ The lady smiled and tapped me on the shoulder. „Right, in Finkwarder anyway. That’s where I’m from too. No better way to learn german for Germans“ She wished us a good day afterwards and finally went to her husband waiting at the corner. She apparently took the time to tell us her loving opinion about our language skills.
My companion just smiled resignated. I couldn’t blame him for this attitude. Multilingualism is often not appreciated in this country. And yes, many Turks switch back and forth in their language. We even have movements that completely mix German and Turkish into a new language, called „Deukisch“. That’s not negative at all, but if you hear all the time negative connotated comments about your mother language, you’ll get tired of it. You resign and lose your confidence.
But you don’t need to. You’re better than that and you’re better than them. So I looked my companion in the eye and said: “ You speak good German, though.“ He answered: „Yeah, you too.“ We laughed, finished our Americano and Flat White Coffees and finally went back to our jobs. The lunch break was over.