I was in German lab the other day. German isn’t really a subject one would think of as a lab science, but that’s what it’s called. It’s a supplement to the regular classroom sessions in which we spend an hour each week doing a sort of “immersion therapy” in the language lab. Only German may be spoken in the lab unless some special circumstance intervenes, which is interesting in that, on the student end of things, we barely know anything yet.
One of the exercises we did this week was to split up into teams of two and work out a dialogue between a young man with an incredibly full social calendar and his mother, who seemed, if we were reading the handout correctly, to be meant to interrogate him comprehensively on what he was doing at every point in his very busy day. My partner and I were not sure we had apprehended this correctly, so we beckoned Herr Tozier over and, with much fumbling, asked him if we were reading it right.
When he assured us that we were, I asked him, “Stefans Mutter – arbeitet sie für das Stasi, oder… ?”
(Roughly, “Stefan’s mother – does she work for the secret police or what?")
And then I had one of those “oh God what am I doing here” moments, because while Herr T got the joke, nobody else in the room did…
… because no one else was old enough to know what the Stasi was.
If I had said “Gestapo” probably everything would have been fine – Nazis, as my old pal MegaZone reminds me, are timeless – but East Germany, not so much.