Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why German?

As most people know, German isn't really a "necessary" language. Frankly, I could survive in this country with just a handful of phrases, because most speak at least a little bit of English. German is rarely (if ever?) the only language someone in the United States speaks, and generally, someone who speaks German and English could probably do a better translation than I can.

So why have I studied this language for 8+ years?!

Let's go back in time. I can remember my first run in with German, which was through a friend named Stefanie in 6th grade. Her parents had lived in Germany when she was younger, so she taught me useful phrases like "Gesundheit" and "Dummkopf" (bless you and stupid head, respectively).
Two years later, we had to decide what language we wanted to study in high school; I believe that this decision changed the course of my life. Basically, I didn't want to study Japanese because it looked too hard, I didn't want to study Spanish because it was the language all the stupid people took (sorry, I was 13) and I didn't want to study French because the girls in the class were mean. So... German it was! I don't really remember much about my first 2 years of high school German except cooking Apfelkuchen once a semester, teaching ourselves "Wir alle wohnen an ein Gelbunterseeboot" (we all live on a yellow submarine.. or something like that) and kids being sent out of class to go to the principal. But I had time in my schedule, so I kept taking it.

When I was 17, I spent a month living in Kiel (north Germany). This month.... was... hard for me! I had never spent so much time away from home, and I realize now that I wasn't really ready to appreciate the differences in our cultures. Plus, I was afraid to make mistakes, and really hardly spoke German at all. So, I spent a lot of the month feeling like I couldn't communicate. It was disheartening. For some reason though, I kept learning German. German classes at Lake Washington HS got even more ridiculous. By the time I was in 4th year German, I was the only student at my level in a classroom of 30 kids at 3 different levels. Basically, I napped in the back, flirted with the 3rd year students and didn't really learn any German. Sorry Frau Taylor.

When college came around, I was automatically signed up for German classes at the University of Portland. I can remember feeling panicked when they placed me in a 301 German class. I got my first ever B in a German class that year. German, however, opened doors for me: I got to go study in Salzburg my sophomore year! By this point, I realized I was good at German if I tried, and so I kept trying, and getting better! My friends all spoke German and it became my favorite class at UP, where we could get nerdy and laugh at jokes that other people didn't understand. I fondly remember writing German papers, because the language is logical, and there is always a correct way to write it. I love that about German. Also, Germany and Austria have fascinating histories. How could I not be interested in learning more about the Holocaust?!

These days, my German isn't perfect (it probably never will be) but I can communciate really well, and can be nearly perfect if you give me a second to think about it. It's strange to think that my time learning German could be over. I don't know where life will take me or whether I will be able to use German much in the future, but it would be nice.

My favorite German sentence (if you were curious): Es gibt einen Löffel in die Geschirrspülmaschine in Schleswig-Holstein!

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