Wette Sy no meh? / Level 4

Wette Sy no meh? If you were asked this at the dinner table, would you know what to answer? Or in my case, would you even know what you were being asked? Such is the nature of Swiss German: it looks and sounds nothing like the High German (Hochdeutsch) that I learned in school.

The same question in High German is Möchten Sie noch mehr?, which translates to “Would you like some more?”. After the lunch [1] plates were being cleared away, a member of the kitchen staff asked me Wette Sy no meh? I stared at her blankly. I had no idea what language she was speaking. Some of the staff here do speak Romansch, and if this was Romansch, I couldn’t figure it out. So she asked me again. And I looked at her with a stone face. I really did; it must have been a ridiculous scene to witness. Then she asked me “Do you want any more?”–in English! Now wasn’t that a riot. She must have figured out that I was not Swiss if I couldn’t decipher her Schwyzertüütsch. Wette is a corruption of a long-disused subjunctive German form, yet lives on in Swiss dialects.

I have not been in the best of health since I arrived in Laax. In fact, I was feeling a little under the weather in Geneva, yet yesterday night it really hit me. The temperature here is in the low thirties, yet from the way I was shivering, you’d swear that it was thirty below zero. I hardly touched dinner yesterday and went to bed immediately afterward. I had almost twelve hours of sleep yet it was not a comfortable sleep at all. However, after resting all that time, I awakened feeling a lot better yet not well enough to face food. Thus for breakfast I only drank orange juice. I think I am over the worst of it now, as I was able to eat a big lunch and also dinner. I realize that I could have nipped whatever bug I had by taking care of myself in Geneva, but I have to ask, does one really expect me to “take it easy” during my first ever visit to the beautiful Geneva? I did so much walking that I very likely tired myself out, lowering my resistance and inviting that flu bug or whatever it was to come on in.

I am enrolled in level four, and class attendance is now seven. It has varied since Monday, as students come and go as they realize the class below is too easy or the class above is too hard. I think we’re staying put at seven. The teacher is Annalisa Cathomas and she has published many articles about Romansch and given lectures on the topic of Romansch endangerment, its survival and promotion. She is the current president of the Surselva Romontsch league. I so much wanted to have her as my teacher this year that I did the exercises for the third level at home before I arrived. Annalisa is considered a hero in the Romansch community and I wanted to learn from someone with such a strong reputation as her.

So far the class has been going well. I do not feel over my head for having done the work for the previous class on my own without a teacher to assist me. There is a lot of conversation and I must tell you about a funny episode from this afternoon. I was burning up inside, and sweating a lot even though the room was not hot all. I think I was sweating out whatever sickness I still had inside me. That said, I was not fully alert and at one time I almost nodded off in class. I wanted to ask a question which used the word for “queen”, yet could not for the life of me remember what the Romansch word for “queen” was. Perhaps I should have remembered the in-your-face obviousness that Romansch is derived from Vulgar Latin, and that the word for “queen” is none other than regina. So glaringly obvious, but my mind was elsewhere. Oftentimes a guess will be correct when trying to think of a Romansch word.

The last bunch of postcards was mailed yesterday from the nearby village of Falera so look for the postal mark. I will mail the next batch this weekend, when I plan to take a trip to an as-yet-undecided-upon village in the Surselva region.

[1] The second meal of the day is the biggest. Dinner, the last meal of the day, is very small, such as today’s, which was just soup and salad. I learned when I first started this course two years ago to fill up at lunch because dinner was not going to be too substantial.

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