Kaffee und Kuchen

Why Do You Talk Like That?

by John Clarke

A visitor to the Barossa Valley a hundred years ago might well have asked that question. Through contact with their neighbours the descendants of the early German settlers had developed a unique language of their own. It was still German with German phrasing and word order, but forming part of it were many English words. The language became known as Barossa Valley Deutsch.

At the last meeting of the German speaking group Kaffee und Kuchen the guest speaker was Vanessa Kreusch, a visiting language assistant in the German Department at the University of Adelaide. She spoke about her home city of Trier.

Trier is remembered today as the birthplace of Karl Marx, where in the city centre there is a 5.5 metre statue of the father of communism, which was presented by the Chinese in 2018 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth. Vanessa described the statue as hӓsslich (hideous).

Trier has more to attract the tourist than a gigantic statue. It is the oldest city in Germany, and in the fourth century was at the centre of the Western Roman Empire. Many of Trier’s Roman buildings date from that time: the Porta Nigra (black gate), the Basilica built by the Emperor Constantine the Great (gigantic too), the Amphitheatre and the three baths (indicating the size and importance of Trier at that time).

But what is of most interest to Vanessa, a student of spoken language, is the dialect of Trier. Geographically close to Luxembourg and France not surprisingly Trier has been influenced by the language of its neighbours. Not only have French words been adopted, but even the pronunciation of German words is different from the pronunciation in other parts of Germany. School children may learn Hochdeutsch (High German), but at home they speak the local dialect.

It is no wonder that the Barossa Valley has a particular attraction for Vanessa Kreusch.

The next meeting of Kaffee und Kuchen will take place on Monday, 22 February at the Langmeil Centre, 7 Maria Street, Tanunda. The theme will be Karnival, and the meeting will be preceded by a luncheon.