Eric Dultz Blog

16 Dec

Eric Dultz

From a young age I have always had an interest in German language. I would have taken it in high school. Had it been offered, but since it was not I had to content myself with French and Spanish, both of which bored me quite frankly. Both sides of my family have Germanic heritage, though not from what would be considered modern-day Germany since my lineage can be traced to regions that are now in Poland and the Czech Republic. I have always felt that German culture’s emphasis on hard work, respect, and order matches up very well with my personal ideals and beliefs, and contributed to my interest of the language that grew around such an interesting culture

Additionally, I am a large fan of cars and motorized vehicles, and Germany is famous for the quality of vehicles it has produced throughout history. It is no coincidence that many pioneers of the automotive technology we see today were German, and we still see their names alive and well today. Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach, and Rudolf Diesel are all names that are very familiar to any engineer, and familiar even to someone with an eye in the luxury car market. It is for good reason that companies like Maybach, Daimler-Chrysler, and Mercedes-Benz are named so. They are named after the pioneers who built them up from the ground.

Another reason for my interest in German was discovered to me only this summer. I began serving food at a local restaurant that served German-based cuisine, and I happened to find out that I loved it. My particular favorite was the jaegerschnitzel, with the reuben coming in a close second (the sauerkraut in it was made on premises, just making it all the better). Bearing all this in mind, my decision to take German when I returned to school was solidified, for I wanted to know more about this wonderful culture and its language


The Heritage That Inspired

14 Dec

When asked what nationalities are in my family, I will always start by saying German.  I am fifty percent German, if not more.  My interest in my German heritage has grown over the years, as I learned more about my family on my father’s side.  My great-grandfather, James Riddleberger, was the U.S. ambassador to Austria; over the course of his career he met Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  He also heard Hitler speak before a large crowd (he was not impressed).

My father lived in Austria for two years with the ambassador and his wife.  They refused to speak English to him and when he returned to the U.S., he had forgotten how to speak English.

The German language has always interested me.  It is said to be an ugly-sounding language, as opposed to the romance languages.  But after six years of French, I wanted to take a different approach, even if it meant that I had to take a language when I could have placed out of the requirement.  I wanted to learn it to honor my family, to better understand where they came from.  I wanted to share something with my father’s parents and maybe even remind my dad of the language he spoke for two years.  The German language is a way to connect with my family.


Interest in German

11 Dec

One thing that I find fascinating about Germany is the variety of music the nation has produced. From the classic works of Beethoven to the modern music today Germany has had a major influence on the music of the world. I am a fan of classical music and in my opinion Beethoven is the most influential classical composer (Mozart being second even though he was Austrian and not actually German). As time went on I started to start listening to a lot of post rock and a good portion of post rock bands are European. My favorite German post rock bands being a dog called ego and Milhaven. It isn’t really that apparent that these bands are actually German since one has songs in English and the other is entirely instrumental. Since post rock is usually instrumental it doesn’t really matter where exactly the bands are from since music itself has no barriers. Industrial rock is one of my favorite genres of music and many of the best bands of the genre are German. I would always listen to bands like Rammstein or KMFDM and have absolutely no idea what they were saying which annoyed me, so I decided to take a German class back in my sophomore year of high school. I really enjoyed the class and felt as though I learned a lot. I switched schools going into my junior year and unfortunately the school I switched into only offered Spanish, French, and Italian. Instead of switching into a different language I just decided not to take any language at all. When I was accepted into TCNJ I was excited to be able to take German again but wasn’t able to at the time due to my major. Once I switched majors I decided that I should take German again.

“Augen Auf” by Oomph!

10 Dec

A few years ago, I heard a song that was sung entirely in German. I didn’t understand any of the words, except for one part where the singer counted to ten in German. Still, the song was really catchy. It sounded like a hard rock or metal song, and every now and then the tune would be stuck in my head. However, I never saw what the song was called or who sang it, so when I went to find it to buy the song, I couldn’t find it. I looked online for “German rock song,” “German song that counts to ten,” anything I could think of that might bring that song and never found it. Now that I’ve taken German, my interest in the song was rekindled, and I wondered if I heard it again, would I know what the lyrics were saying?

I tried looking for it again. This time, instead of “German rock song,” I looked up “German metal song counting to ten.” On the first page of the search website, I saw the lyrics to the song. The song was “Augen Auf” by the German band Oomph!. I read through the lyrics, and found that I understood the chorus, which was “Augen auf, ich komme.” I read this as “Eyes open, I come.” However, I learned that in German, the phrase “augen auf” translates to something along the lines of “Watch out” or “Look out,” so the phrase was really something like “Look out, here I come.” I found this very interesting because in English, we also have phrases that mean something other than their literal translation. For example, “What’s up?” doesn’t mean “what is above you” but actually means “How are you?” It was interesting to see an example of this in another language, especially in one that I was studying, and I’m glad I looked up and the song and ultimately gained deeper insight into the German language.

Here is a link to the song:


Nena – “99 Luftballons”

10 Dec

I listen to plenty of songs in different languages, but only one is in German: “99 Luftballons”, by Nena. Anyone intimately familiar with 1980s pop culture will remember this song as one of the most popular ones of the decade. The song reached #2 on American charts, and was #1 at some point during the early 80s in Germany, Austria, and Sweden. Interestingly, the version of the song that garnered so much popularity, even internationally, was the German version. They attempted to popularize an English, but it never became as popular as the original. I thought this was interesting, because it raised the question as to why people preferred to listen to a song they couldn’t understand the lyrics to, rather than a song they understood perfectly.

The first theory I have is concerning the subject matter. The original German song is a protest song, the lyrics telling of a gross overreaction by the military at the sight of 99 red balloons in the sky, with catastrophic consequences. The English version hints at the same theme, but has a more roundabout or sardonic tone to it, never exactly indicating what is going on. The English version also implies a hint of mischief, the speaker “I” within the song having been the one to buy and deploy the harmless red balloons. Perhaps the more hard-hitting message of the German version, whether inherently recognizable in the singer’s voice or researched by fans of the song, is part of what made the German version so popular.

The second (and perhaps more likely) theory is that the sound of the two songs contrasted one another so much, that people preferred listening to the song with the German words, even though they couldn’t be understood. The German language possesses an intensity that English lacks, especially in the eyes of a native English speaker. It is similar to English in that they are both Germanic languages, so they sound slightly similar to begin with, with hard sounds and an abundance of consonants. However, there is something inherently interesting or intriguing about a language you don’t understand. Perhaps the audience of the early 1980’s thought the German words so enigmatic, they would rather not understand it than listen to an English version. Language is interesting that way — we are always most intrigued by that which we don’t understand.

Overall, the song “99 Luftballons” is one of the most well-known German songs of our time, and rightly so. It is rare that the original foreign language version of a song becomes more popular in the mainstream than the translated version, but this song seems to be the outlier. Hard-hitting, political, and an excellent song all around, it might be said that it’s no wonder this song made it to the top of the charts in America as well as Germany.

Here is a link to the song’s lyrics, a side-by-side comparison of the original German, the direct translation into English, and the tweaked English version of the song:


My Intro to German

10 Dec

Foreign languages have always been a part of my life – I was the first member of my family to be born in America, and the only one except for a second cousin who doesn’t speak fluent Hungarian.  Two of my closest friends speak other languages at home – Korean and Spanish – and the town in Central Jersey that I grew up in has a very diverse population.  What sparked my interest in German, however, was a high school friend’s step-family: his stepfather was born outside Munich, and both of his step-brothers, one two years older than us and one our age, spoke both English and German fluently.  I got used to hearing German spoken around me almost as much as Hungarian (which I’m still not fluent in) at home.   I always liked the sound of German being spoken – even though German is often considered a harsh-sounding language, it always sounded more robust and meaningful than a language that people generally think of as beautiful, like French or Italian.  In addition, a high school English teacher introduced me to many of my favorite authors who wrote in German, such as Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, and Hermann Hesse, authors whom I was told by my teacher, also a student of German, were among the most inadequately translated in the western canon.  And so when it came time to pick a language to study at TCNJ, I already had a push in the right direction.  Having taken Latin for a total of seven years through middle school and high school, I also felt that knowing some German would round out my understanding of the English language, since English is a primarily Germanic language with heavy borrowing from Latin.  Furthermore, while I found Latin useful to know, since it is a dead language we were never taught anything resembling “conversational” Latin, so when I was selecting college courses, I decided not to continue with Latin and pick a language that I could learn to speak. 


Wir sind Helden

10 Dec

My first real exposure to German culture was in my high school German class. We had studied terms for describing music, and then we progressed to listening to some modern German bands. Some bands that we listened to were Tokio Hotel, which I was surprised to hear they were a German band, Wir sind Helden, and Kante. When I heard Wir sind Helden, I was immediately interested in finding out more about them. They had this way of making music that was different from American music and still really great to listen to. My teacher assigned us projects to research a German band, unfortunately I could not research Wir sind Helden, so I searched for another band. I settled on Kante, which was very different in terms of style from Wir sind Helden. I eventually downloaded one of Wir sind Helden’s most popular songs, “Nur ein wort”. I still listen to it regularly and have furthered my interests in Germany in general. I even asked my teacher about what I could do if I went to study there. She told me that there was a test I could take to get into the prestigious Goethe Institute if I passed. Despite my great desire to do it, I declined because I needed to get at least a year of college down before studying abroad. I did attend the Study Abroad fair held on campus and met some of the German students. They were incredibly nice and provided a fair amount of information about studying in Germany. I looked through the informational packets and noticed how different their way of doing things was. It just makes me more eager to study there. Because my teacher integrated music into her class, my interest in Germany grew so I would not only want to go there to study, but to immerse myself into the culture.