Erlebnis auf deutsch

Fuer meine erste Klasse bei Goethe Institut fuehlte ich mich nicht wohl. Ich hatte sehr schlecht Jetlag. Kiwi, Andrew, und ich sind alle in verschiedenen Klassen. Meine Klasse ist sehr klein.

Die Teilnehmer meiner Klasse kommen aus ueberall und ich glaube, dass alle zwei oder drei Sprachen sprechen koennen.  Ich kann nur Englisch und ein bisschen Deutsche sprechen und ich vergass mehr Deustch als ich gedacht habe.

Wir gingen mit einer Gruppe durch die Altstadt.  Es war sehr schoen und die Architektur war interessant.  Ich fotografierte alle.  Die Lehrer im Goethe Institut sprechen nur Deutsch mit mir und es ist schewer fuer mich, alle zu verstehen.  Sie sprechen schnell und ich muss konzentrieren, wenn ich verstehen will.  Wenn wir in der Altstadt waren, sah ich, dass alle Deutsche Leute Englisch sprechen koennen.

Was machen wir in den USA?  Wir koennen nur Englisch sprechen und wenn man eine neue Sprache lernen will, ist es schwer eine Klasse zu finden.  Ich glaube, dass Sprachen fuer Bildungs in den USA nicht so wichtig ist, aber in Europa, sehe ich, dass sie sehr wichtig sind.  Man muss eine andere Sprache lernen wegen unserer grosser Welt.

So, ja. Jetzt ist Deutsch ein bisschen schwer fuer mich.  Aber ich sehe, dass ich Deutsch lernen sollte.  Jetzt, bin ich stereotypisch.  Ich kenne nur English.  Ich will mein Deutsch verbessern.  Hoffentlich werde ich besser Deutsch am Ende sprechen.



Wilkommen aus Deutschland!

     Today is the fifth day of our German adventure, and our fourth day of classes. “Adventure” certainly is the fitting word for my experience: never before have I (Andrew) been so far away from home for so long, nor had such a sheer volume of new cultural experiences and outlooks thrown my way.

     The feeling of being surrounded by many thousands of people to whom my entire previous existence amounts to little more than a dot on an atlas is a deep and potent thrill. Compounding this overwhelming foreignness is the broad mix of nationalities represented by my fellow students here at the Goethe Institut.

     My class has seven students from six countries. I, of course, come from America, and the others hail from Russia, Brazil, Italy, England (two students come from London), and France. We have already eagerly discussed the cultural similarities and differences among our nations many times in our four mere days together; we’ve spoken of everything from idioms formed from colors (such as the American phrase “to see red”) to military enlistment and officer training practices.

     In class, both the intricacies of the German language and the panoply of foreign customs constantly remind me that the USA is only a small corner of the globe. The experience of living and walking around Dresden constantly reminds me of how different some of the other corners can be. Luckily, though, our collective skill in German, as well as the relatively high level of English known by Germans (especially the younger generation, who learn English in school), has enabled us to bridge these gaps without too much trouble.

     Perhaps the most striking facet of life is Dresden is the architecture. Centuries-old baroque buildings of fanstastic scope and detail litter the Altstadt (the historic district), and even many of the more recent buildings are beautifully built. The entire city has a very German bent in its appearance. Artifacts of the former communist rule in East Germany, which is locally called the Deustche Demokratik Republik or DDR, also litter the city: the stark, functional, minimalist architecture preferred by the communists contrasts sharply with the baroque glory of the older buildings.

    This week has been full of wonderful sights, and the next week promises even more. Tomorrow we are taking an Institut-sponsored excursion to the nearby city of Meissen, which is world-famous for its china, and several other trips are lined up for the days to come.

Being the Stereotype

           Kiwi Lanier:

           Nobody likes Americans. Plenty of people warned me of this before my departure for Dresden. Having been to Europe before, I brushed these warnings off, arguing that I had met plenty of European people on school trips to Europe who liked my friends and me just fine. In my first class at the Goethe Institut the teacher, Frau Peters, asked each of us to say our names, where we were from, and why we were here. I had never been in the presence of so many people from so many different countries: Libya, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Bosnia, Italy, Jordan, India, Hungary, and Poland all made the list. I was the youngest person in the room by five years and the only American in the room. I watched many people in the room shift uncomfortably and exchange looks as I stated my country of origin. After everyone had spoken, Frau Peters wrote the name of each country that had been mentioned on the top of a sheet of paper and asked all of us to write something we know about each country. Russia, Brazil, and Italy were the only countries I could talk about offhand. To write something for the others I had to surreptitiously look at the map on the wall to find clues (mostly I just stuck to capital cities and geographical position) while simultaneously trying to hide my embarrassment.
          I noticed most other people had significantly less trouble than I did in writing down facts about different countries. (One of many reasons that we should completely overhaul the American education system.) Then, each person would take the sheet with his or her home country on it and read what people had written, saying if it was true or untrue. All the things written about America were that we are good at basketball, we eat too much fast food, and our president is Barack Obama. All correct. Frau Peters then asked me if there was anything else people should have known about American culture. The only other things I could add was that American football was the unofficial favorite sport and that a lot of people are trying to eat less fast food, even if it may not be a majority. I wanted to somehow assure everyone in the room that not all Americans are like that but I realized that wouldn’t be entirely true. Not only did I realize I know embarrassingly little about the world I inhabit, I also realized that I don’t know as much about my own culture as I thought I did.
          It boils down to this: Americans do nothing to break the stereotypes that foreigners have established for them. To many non-Americans, Americans are lazy, ignorant, and wasteful. We complain that we are not treated fairly and yet we continue to knowingly eat McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A much more than we should. We also continue to treat trash uncaringly without regard to what could potentially be recycled. And, as evidenced by my limited geographical and cultural knowledge, we know absolutely nothing about living globally. I am well aware that I can’t completely change the mindset and public policy of one of the most powerful countries in the world, but I can already see my own mind changing course and starting to focus more on becoming more world-conscious slowly but surely.

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