Bilingual books (which mix the languages in one chapter rather than on facing pages)

Continuing the discussion from What do you do for a living?:

I have some books which mix German and English within the same chapter, by telling the stories of mixed groups of English-speaking and German children. They’re by Emer O’Sullivan and Dietmar Rösler.

The ones I have are:

  • Butler & Graf
  • Butler, Graf & Friends: Nur ein Spiel?
  • Butler, Graf & Friends 3 (aka “Butler, Graf & Friends: Umwege”)

(those three form a series)

  • I like you - und du?
  • It could be worse - oder?

(these two also sort of follow on with the same story)

  • Mensch, be careful!
  • Watch out - da sind sie

(these two are stand-alone stories)

Some of those are detective stories (the Butler & Graf series, Mensch, Watch out).

Apparently, there are also bilingual books by Renate Ahrens which are described as “eine deutsch-englisch Freundschaftsgeschichte”; I don’t know them myself. These may be for younger readers - the advertising at the back of one of my books says that the O’Sullivan ones I have are “ab 13 Jahre” while the Renate Ahrens ones are “ab 10 Jahre”.

Some of her titles are:

  • Hello Marie - alles okay?
  • Hello Claire - I miss you
  • Hey you - lauf nicht weg!
  • My crazy family. Hilfe, Conor kommt! Eine deutsch-englische Patchwork-Familiengeschichte

As a taste, here’s a random section from one of the books:

They didn’t know what to do. There they were, in the middle of the country, and they couldn’t even telephone Robert and Maureen because the new house had no phone. It took some time before people got a phone in Ireland. There was a long waiting list. «So was Beknacktes», schimpfte Karin, «hier stehen wir im strömenden Regen, können nicht weiter und können nicht mal unsere Eltern anrufen. So was Hoffnungsloses!»

Paddy didn’t feel like arguing with her.

They could have spent the night in a park or somewhere if it hadn’t been raining, but in the rain… Paddy had no uncles or aunts or friends of the family living in Cavan. But wait now, he thought, Desmond had cousins who came from Cavan. One of them visited him in Wicklow. What was he called? Brian something… Brian McNamara. Yes, that was it!

They decided to look in the phonebook to see if they could find his family in there. Wäre Karin besserer Laune gewesen, hätte sie bestimmt darüber gelacht, dass es für ganz Irland nur zwei Telefonbücher gab – eins für Dublin und das andere für ‹den Rest›. In dem gab es massenweise McNamaras. Während Paddy die raussuchte, die in Cavan wohnten, ging Karin in einen der kleinen Läden, die anscheinend immer geöffnet waren. Ihr war nach einem großen Stück Schokolade.

«Excuse me, but aren’t you Karin, the girl from Berlin?», hörte sie plötzlich jemanden hinter ihr sagen. Sie drehte sich um. Da stand Mrs. Moloney, die Frau aus dem Bus mit den Keksen und den vielen Tüten. Natürlich, die war ja auf der Hinfahrt in Cavan ausgestiegen.

«Hello, Mrs. Moloney. What a surprise!», sagte Karin.

«I thought you were going to Donegal», wunderte sich Mrs. Moloney.


Brilliant, thank you! I think I may feel some Xmas presents coming on!

That is an interesting idea, and something I was completely unaware of. In fact I always feel a bit guilty about mixing languages (although it happens all the time in our family) as I don’t want the kids to end up with some wierd kind of pigeon… That may be unfounded, as they don’t seem to have any problem keeping to the right language when really necessary - although their German has rather a lot of holes in it!


I don’t think I’ve ever seen it anywhere else!

I think I came across the first book in a public library when I was young and read several more over the years, then when I got older I bought some for nostalgia’s sake and got a couple more as presents.

Yes, language mixing and what to think of it is a topic for a whole thread of its own :slight_smile:

It seems to be very common at least among young Turks here in Germany; on the bus you’ll sometimes see them switching in and out of Turkish and German when talking amongst themselves.

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Of course a minority language like Welsh is particularly susceptible to that. In some areas and contexts it can be normal to hear Welsh with so many English words in it that you almost wonder why they bother! (On the other hand, that’s just another valid and natural bit of diversity to be appreciated! :slight_smile: )

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My children are biingual with Greek. They have no problems at all speaking both their languages.

When they speak amongst themselves and often in a family context there is a lot of mixing, to and fro-ing between the languages. I think this is perfectly natural. There is no confusion as to what is really Greek and what s really English.

I love the idea of these books and I wish I could find something like that in Greek/ English. I certainly think there is a market for it in Welsh.