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. 

-MZ

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