Learning a new language is hard work and a big time investment, so we better have good reasons for why we want to do so. Knowing why helps us with our goals in the language (making learning it more structured) and will also help keep us motivated.
Here are eight reasons why I want to learn French:
1. I had French for a few years in secondary school. I didn’t go that deep into the language, but I still had some interaction with vocabulary and basic grammar, which will make the learning process a little easier. Not to mention, French classes and other materials are relatively accessible in the USA, so it will be quite doable to learn basic French in the States.
2. It’s the second most popular foreign language after English. This means that I could speak French with friends (who already know it) and meet new francophones. It’s not the most popular language now, but it still holds its status as a lingua franca. It will always (or so I think) be regarded as a beautiful, romantic language that is part of a nice, prestigious culture.
3. It won’t be easy to read and write, but I like the pronunciation. (And, as I am learning more French, I like how French grammar expresses itself differently than English or German grammar. I am learning new vocabulary/new ways to think about the world, too.)
4. French and English are (sometimes) similar, so it won’t be as big of a challenge as learning, for example, an Asian language (or even Russian for that matter :D) There will be a lot of new vocabulary (and false friends) due to the Latin roots of French, but it will make it easier for me to learn another romance language in the future.
5. The language has crept into other European languages (French used to be the language of government and the language of the elite, so other languages borrowed many French words) and knowing French will help my reading comprehension in general humanities. Therefore, I will understand history better and also improve my vocabulary.
6. I like a few French scholars already and would have access to even more scholars, writers, artists and the like.
7. After learning German and starting with Russian, I just wasn’t satisfied. Learning languages is one of my hobbies and it is something that I enjoy–not just to say that I speak the languages, or just to be able to communicate with others, but because I enjoy the process of learning them. Speaking multiple languages also makes travelling easier and more interesting.
8. Learning French will make it more enjoyable to travel in France. I can’t wait to see the beauty of the country, enjoy tasty food and get to know the culture (art, literature, customs) better.
So, guys, what languages do you want to learn and why?
This was required by university housing as a way for the RA (resident adviser) to check-in with the students. It was also meant to be beneficial for Freshman students to reflect on how university has impacted their lives. Yes, I wrote this as a Junior. If you keep reading, you will discover why I was living in Freshman housing.
What were some of the highlights of this year? Why?
I had an article published on an online magazine
I worked in Little Five for seven months at Rag-O-Rama
I applied for an internship and scholarship that both required recommendation letters, essays and a lot of work (didn’t get internship; still waiting on scholarship)
I got to explore different types of German classes (found out I didn’t like translating but I like German poetry)
I’ve maintained regular lessons at Goethe-Zentrum and practiced my German consistently
I took a course “Women Lead in Business” and gained a lot of practical knowledge
I teach English weekly to non-native adults and truly enjoy teaching
I led a Book Drive for Golden Key Honor Society and gave a speech during the New Member Recognition Ceremony (in front of President Becker)
I’ve read 15 books since the fall semester began (not to mention all the articles and excerpts I read for my classes; and more than half of the books were in German)
What were some of your personal successes? Why?
One of my personal successes was that I got a little tougher this year. Before I wanted to maintain friendships and relationships with people who brought me down. But this year, I have protected myself and have decided not to let people play with my emotions.
Another personal success is that I’ve managed my negative emotions well. I have used music or writing to express what was making me feel bad. I didn’t go to some of the negative coping options I used before.
What were some of your struggles this year? why?
Time management has not been a problem for me. It has been not having enough time to do everything (work, school, sleep, work out, shop, hang with friends, etc., etc.) Many college students do have to work, or have other responsibilities. This year has been the busiest for me. I have been exhausted so many times, and relied on coffee to keep me going. I have had to lack in certain areas like giving myself free time to go out, or hitting the gym. Although being busy is good for me. It keeps me in line and feeling good, I have been pushing myself and have neglected (although not to a ridiculous degree) my body and well-being.
The other major struggle I had this year was with my roommate before I changed dorms. We had to share a bedroom (and of course a bathroom). It did not matter how many compromises or roommate agreements we made, she always did what she wanted to do (including keeping me awake many nights and talking to me like she’s my overcorrecting aunt.) I tried to live in peace and keep to myself, but she truly began harassing me and I felt like I could not even breathe in my own room. So, my other main struggle was being practically tortured by a person who didn’t want to make things easy for anyone. On top of that, getting in touch with the right people at Georgia State, and them actually doing what they are supposed to do to change things for me has been a major struggle out of my control.
What are things you can do in the future or things you’ve already started doing to help in the areas you struggle?
When I finally got to a point that I was so used to being busy all the time, but losing my drive a bit and relying too much on coffee and energy drinks, I decided to put in my two weeks at work. Now that I’ve stopped working, I am feeling much better and I am putting time into the things I neglected before.
Do you think anything has changed about you since coming to college?
Sure, a lot has changed about me since coming to college. My fashion sense has developed into a new direction. I am pickier about my friends. I have been to a few different foreign countries and have experienced different cultures. I also speak another language and am learning my third. In high school, I was more of an outcast and rebel. Although, I am not trying to please everyone now, I put a lot of consideration into my actions as I want to help others and make an impact on my community. I am still shy, caring, and a little nerdy, but I have challenged myself in many ways and done things that I would not have done in high school. I have matured in many aspects and have really learned a lot. I am more focused and have passions and interests that I didn’t have before.
How have your relationships at home changed since you’ve come to GSU?
My parents see me as a young adult and have a lot to be proud of and share with their friends. Having more distance with my parents has also allowed us to understand each other better. My family is still important to me and I will never forget that my parents worked hard to provide for me and gave me a lot of support, but now I have become more independent and cannot rely on my parents to fix everything when something goes wrong. I think my parents have learned from me and hearing about my experiences; I can also appreciate hearing some of their old stories and points of advice.
What was it like at home over break?
Normal, boring, relaxing… Things do not change that often back home. Of course it is weird at first but I have adjusted to it and see that as where I’m from and where my family is. Everything was fine with my family and I kept myself busy, but didn’t overdo it and gave myself time to rest. I was still working in Atlanta during break.
How have your views on social or cultural issues changed since coming to GSU? Have they changed at all?
Apart from travelling abroad, I will say that Georgia State has exposed me to many different types of people. Because of that, I am used to working with people who are different than me. I do not let stereotypes or outside appearances guide my decisions. However, I have also seen that people are very divided and are quick to blame others. I think that there is potential for all people to be treated equally, but there is a lot of pain and hate that hold people back. In a way, I have been inspired because being with all kinds of people is the norm for me, but, on the other hand, I have been discouraged because although Georgia State and Atlanta may be diverse, people are not so open-minded and misjudge others when they are different.
Is there anything you’d like to challenge yourself or other students about regarding perceptions of other cultures or your own culture?
I think that everyone should either travel abroad or study a foreign language. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone allows us to see our flaws and our strengths. It also helps us realize that no one is always the insider and no one is always the outsider. There will always be similarities and differences between people. Exposure to new things and opening yourself up to different people is a great way to challenge one’s perception of their culture and other cultures.
Have there been any programs or events on campus that have exposed you to different ideas about culture and society? What were they?
I went to a World Youth Alliance meeting and discussed stereotypes about homeless. I heard a lot of interesting stories from volunteers with experience around working with homeless people. I also learned some surprising statistics about how extreme poverty and homelessness are in Atlanta and the state of Georgia.
I enjoyed putting this post together. I did not make any changes to what was originally written in Spring of 2017. Now you know a little bit more about me.
Heute versuchen wir die Frage “Was ist Deutsch?” zu beantworten. (Today we will try to answer the question “What is German?”). We will cover historical information as well as modern thoughts from several people–including myself. The magazine “Deutsch perfekt” put together an interesting article on the topic (September 2017) that I really wanted to discuss since many points are connected with the introductory points in my course, German Civilization. I will begin by discussing the article then I will share my thoughts and experiences on German culture compared to American culture.
Wir wissen schon woher der Name “Germanen” kommt (Julius Cäsar). (We already know where the name “Germans” is from.) Aber was steckt hinter dem Namen “deutsch”? (But what is behind the name “deutsch”?) Laut Deutsch perfekt “deutsch” bedeutet (according to Deutsch perfekt “deutsch” means):
“Deutsch ist die Sprache, die zum Volk gehört.” (Deutsch is the language that belong to the Volk.)
“Historisch gesehen, bedeutet “deutsch” nicht viel mehr als” ungefähr die gleiche Sprache zu sprechen.” (Historically, deutsch does not mean much more than speaking roughly the same language)
[At the time there wasn’t just one Germany–instead, there were hundreds of smaller lands. In 1800 the situation changed due to hate for Napoleon (and his occupation) and the many Germans united under national pride. ]
Hat Deutsch perfekt Recht? Was steht unter “deutsch” im Duden? The Germany dictionary, Duden, confirms that “deutsch” carries the meaning of Volk.
Short grammatical note: deutsch (adjective- “German”); (das) Deutsch (German language); Deutscher (German man); Deutsche (German woman); Deutsche (also plural- “Germans”); die Deutschen (the Germans). Unlike most other nationalities in German [der Amerikaner, die Amerikanerin “the American (man)”, “the American (woman)”], the words for German (female, male, plural) behave like adjectives, therefore their declination depends on the gender (or if it is plural) as well as whether they stand alone, with ein (a), or der (the).
By the way, Deutsch Perfekt is a great resource for language learners. Articles are written in a simpler fashion, vocabulary is listed in side notes and grammar is explained in a refreshing manner focusing on what’s most important with plenty of examples. You can subscribe to the monthly magazine digitally or in print and there is also an accompanying website. Check it out if you want to know more about German culture and language!
Back to our topic.. How does “Deutsch perfekt” define Germanness? First, I will include some of the main answers given in the article (many of which were repeated throughout). Then, I will share my summary and conclusion to the article. After we finish with the article, I will move on to my comparison of German and American culture. Title page of the article see below.
“The question is easy. The answer too: German is, that there is no easy way to answer. Why then is identity such an important topic for the Germans?”
The article continues with several photos see below:
Featured Answers to the Question “Was ist Deutsch?”:
“Deutschland ist bunt.” (Germany is colorful.)
“Dichter und Denker.” (Poets and thinkers.)
“Ruhig und geordnet.” (quiet and orderly)- quiet streets; bold emotions aren’t shown in public; concentration within “in sich”
“Nirgends gibt es so viele Vereine.” (Nowhere else are there so many clubs.)
To think about the question (what is German?), but nothing really so strange that doesn’t exist somewhere else
“Einwanderungsland” (Germany is a land of immigration.)- Every fifth person in Germany is an immigrant or the child of immigrant parents.
Summary and Discussion of the Article:
The article begins by stating that even German researchers and philosophers, who have analyzed what it means to be German, think that there is no definite answer, but that the question is nonetheless very important to Germans and they will always be curious as to how they are perceived for being German. Nietzsche wrote in 1886 the following: “Es kennzeichnet die Deutschen, dass bei ihnen die Frage “was ist deutsch?” niemals ausstribt.” (My rough translation: “Germans are marked German because the question “was ist deutsch?” will never die out among them.”) Another point that was stressed in the beginning of the article is that Germany is diverse.
Several people share their opinion about German culture–including foreigners and native Germans. Alida Bremer, a German-Croatian writer, states that punctuality and reliability are very clearly important. She also shares that Germans don’t have problems correcting others and that they love to follow the rules. Bremer has been living in Germany for more than 30 years, does translation as well as writing in German. Another point she mentions is that Germans sometimes seem unsure who they are. A psychologist and native German, Stephan Grünewald, does marketing research and believes that this uneasiness leads to productivity–i.e. that Germans want to be do something with purpose.
The article from Deutsch perfekt is a collection of opinions from writers, researchers and business people. Native Germans as well as foreigners, who have lived in Germany for many years, are included. History and modern culture is broken down in order to provide readers with a better glimpse into the meaning of “deutsch.” A variety of images are also used to make the article more vibrant. If I could sum up the article with just one or two of the points mentioned, I would say: “Deutsch” means many things, but what is very “deutsch” is the desire to know what it means.
I am an American exchange student living in Germany so what do I think are some of the potential meanings of “deutsch” in relation to American culture? Let’s explore some of the main points that come to mind below. Please do not think I am trying to offend you or anyone else. Obviously, these points will be relatively subjective. There are always positive and negative sides. I like both my native language and country as well as the German language and Germany. I hope that you will see that I am actually not trying to be so negative anyway. I have not had any special intercultural training other than the short discussions of German culture compared to other cultures in my orientation week here. Not to mention, I have taken several German language courses in the United States as well as in Germany. Therefore, I have picked up on most of these things through experience.
Some points that stood out from me from the discussion of German culture in my orientation course are as following: 1) Germans loving talking about German stereotypes and explaining how “true” or “not true” they are. 2) Some stereotypes mentioned include: having a clean, nice car; love of rules and insurances; hard shell- warm on inside; punctuality (but that’s true because time is valuable); Germans are direct and honest (say what you mean when around Germans)
Speaking English- Speaking German:
In the USA, it is pretty much expected that everyone can speak English. Since foreign languages are not stressed at most schools and American culture is so dominant around the world (not to mention English is the lingua franca and one-third of the world speaks English), very few Americans speak more than one language. If a foreigner speaks English to an American, the American will speak English back to them.
In Germany, it is a totally different situation. Elementary school students must take many school subjects including foreign languages. Not to mention, English is everywhere–music, cosmetic industry, general advertising, business industry, tourism industry, science and so on. In everyday conversation, Germans use English words (even if there may be German equivalents) in their speech. For foreigners who have just learned a few words in German, they should pretty much expect that they won’t hear much German spoken to them. Workers in almost all fields will quickly respond with English. Even when you are decently fluent in German and ask touristy questions (where is the bathroom?), some Germans will still respond in English–I guess they just want to practice their foreign language skills. Because they get used to many tourists/foreigners who aren’t very interested in learning German, advanced students of German may get frustrated. If you are in an official situation where you have to share that you are American (for example, opening a bank account) and speak great German with them, sometimes they may start speaking English (out of habit) and ask whether they should speak German or English. I have personally experienced the last situation and I respond in German, but I am never rude if someone is so eager to speak English to me because I trust my language skills and don’t let little interactions cause me to lose my confidence. But, I also want to add that once you have a good foundation in German and a decent accent, Germans will converse with you and go on with things like normal. Not all Germans speak English and they speak English on many different levels, but do expect to read & hear the English language in everyday German life and meet many Germans very eager to practice English.
Americans may not realize how often they smile in comparison to other nationalities until they go abroad. Many other nationalities (Germans, Russians, etc.) often interpret the frequent smiling as superficial/dishonest or weird/crazy. To Russians, a person walking down the street just smiling is not all right in the head. And an approaching person, who is smiling, wants something. Even smiling is not 100% viewed the same in all parts of the USA. Take for example, a small southern town in comparison to a big city. A smile is usually (or so I think) a polite/friendly greeting once you make eye contact with somebody or it is an indication that everything is alright. But in a fast-paced city, where you may not be able to trust everyone around you, a smile may be too personal. In Germany, I have experienced a lot of staring when walking down the street or quick, awkward glances when passing someone. So, yes it seems fair to say that Germans stare more and smile less. Overall, they do not have as dramatic and open emotions as Americans and can appear more business-like even in casual situations. But, they do smile in Germany–especially once they have got to know you. No need to feel intimidated if you don’t see a lot of smiles and give Germans some time to open up. Eye contact and smiling may also be interpreted as flirting in Germany so keep that in mind too! To sum it up: if not waving and not smiling isn’t considered unfriendly in Germany, then that also means when an American waves or smiles to a stranger they aren’t necessarily being unaufrichtig/oberflächlich (insincere/superficial), it is a habit of their culture and considered polite and friendly even if they may not be overflowing with joy to meet a stranger.
Greetings & small talk
When you enter a room (a shared kitchen for example) or any shop, you will always be greeted–but just with “hello” and not “hello, how are you?” In comparison, in American stores you may often be greeted with “hey. how are you? how’s it going?” Also when you exit a place in Germany, you say bye. Often Americans leave without saying goodbye. There is some small talk (especially among students), but Germans seem to be more comfortable with the silence when among strangers. Although, I have noticed that older Germans love to talk with each other on the bus and train. And just like anywhere, people usually talk to the most with people they already know. So I am not implying here that Germans don’t like to converse with each other–just that it depends on the situation and small talk in the line at the grocery store or other similar situations is less common than what I experienced growing up in Georgia, USA. There are many clubs in Germany and they also have parties and other events so there is a lot of social life and conversation here too. I have encountered many outgoing Germans who always introduce themselves, but also less talkative, shy Germans too. Overall, greetings (hello-bye) are a daily standard everywhere but open conversation among strangers seems to be much more common in the USA. In formal, impersonal situations, what is necessary is said, but “personal” topics are only discussed in informal, more casual situations (in Germany).
Being polite vs. being straightforward
That brings me to my next point–namely, about being polite vs. being straightforward. Well, let’s just start by saying that Germans complain more. When they don’t like how something is being done, they will say something. I don’t think that makes them rude–they are just trying to improve things. Americans also tend to soften the truth instead of being straight forward. Yeah, they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but what can be accomplished when everyone avoids the truth? In Germany, you get what you ask for. Constructive criticism gives Germans the chance for self-improvement. German language tends to be more literal whereas English can do roundabouts. Opinions and discussions are gladly heard in Germany.
Eating at the table
Although there is a proper way to eat at the table in English-speaking countries, fast-food has made this less relevant in America. We eat with our hands, talk loudly at the table and sometimes cut our food and then put the knife back down and just eat with the fork. One thing I’ve observed in Germany is that Germans usually keep their hands and arms visible–above the table. They often rest their elbows on the table, which I guess is not considered rude here. Yes at the Biergarten, Germans are going to be talking with each other but somehow Americans are always louder. Finally, Germans eat with a fork and knife and do not set the knife down until they are finished eating (or need to reach for a drink, etc.) There are some foods that you eat just with the hands (pretzels or bread rolls), but fries and burgers are eaten here with a knife and fork.
To conclude this article on “Was ist deutsch?”, I want to return to Deutsch perfekt’s article, which ends with “Deutsch at a glance.” This part of the article is labeled “schwer”- meaning it is written for advanced students, but check it out and see what you can understand. If it isn’t clear, I recommend dict.cc for translation. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this presentation and were able to understand the question and answers to “Was ist deutsch?” a bit better. My question for you is: how did you interpret the photos that were included in the Deutsch perfekt article? Abstract? Meaningful?
My name is Stephanie Ford and I am a big fan of world languages and culture. I will be living and studying in Erlangen, Germany until next August (2018).
My home university is Georgia State in Atlanta, Georgia. I am a senior and I’m currently doing a few online courses with Georgia State in order to complete my degree requirements. Although I miss class discussions, I still must do some “class participation.” My class participation is vor Ort (“locally”).
In this blog, I will share excursions, film reviews and research projects related to the course “German Civilization.” I will also share my opinions on sightseeing I may have done, useful insider tips, and some comparisons between German and American culture.
I invite my fellow students to read about my experience here as an exchange student as well as anyone else interested in Germany or studying abroad.