The Beginning of Winter Semester 2010/11


Have you ever written a 15 page academic paper in a foreign language and been told that if there are grammar mistakes, it will be returned without a grade? Or had to read 30 pages in Frakturschrift? Or how about be the only person in your upper level classes who isnt a native speaker of the language? I think it’s safe to say that I am in for a difficult semester.

My first class yesterday translates to “A secular era? Global history of religion in the 19th and 20th century.” It’s fascinating. The context in which we will be discussing America later in the semester is that of the rise of the “fundamental christianity” that is so strong right now. He repeatedly described it as “fundamentalism.” I think this class is going to be fascinating. The reading that I have to do for this class however, is a little less exciting. That binder is my reader for this seminar and it’s freaking huge. Good news is, it only cost me 20€, and that’s the only book I need to buy for the entire semester. I have about seventy pages in two articles to read for Monday.

The other class I had yesterday translates to “Borders as a historical category.” Basically, the class is about different types of borders (geographical, social, cultural and epochs), how they function, what they represent and how they effect the way people live. The amount of writing I am going to have to do for this class is insane. I have to write essays, summaries, a presentation, a test and last but definitely not least, a 15 page paper. I’m honestly slightly scared of this class. Oh, and did I mention the fact that I have a 30 page reading to do in Frakturschrift for Monday? Frakturschrift, if you didnt click on the link in the first paragraph, is the kind of German font you saw in old photos and in old books. Why not, I mean what the hell, reading texts in a foreign language in a difficult font from over a hundred years ago sounds like the kind of adventure I signed up for when I got on the plane to Frankfurt. Oy vey.

Now we’ve gotten to the point where I get to make you feel really bad about the American higher education system. Imagine you’re sitting in a upper-level history lecture at the UofM and your professor hands out an article for you to read and then discuss with your classmates. Now imagine that you look down at the article and realize that it is written completely in Spanish, with no translations whatsoever and that your professor just assumes that you can not only understand what you are reading, but are also able to have a well thought out discussion on the topic. There is no way a professor could get away with something like that, right? In Germany, they can not only get away with it, but it is simply part of the deal. Not only is my textbook for my borders class in ENGLISH, but multiple texts in the reader for both of these classes are in English as well. How are Americans supposed to compete with this when the majority cant even speak another language?

The reason for the bilingualism here is that there is simply more available research done in English speaking countries than German speaking ones. Though it makes some sense, it was definitely not what I was expecting when I signed up for German seminars. It also presents a whole new type of challenge. When reading German texts, I learn the words that I dont know while reading and then can use them to discuss or write about what I read but when it is written in English, I need to research the correct German words on my own in order to discuss it in German.This is a lot harder than it sounds…

I went to go buy the readers for these two classes earlier today and ran into a guy who is in my Borders class. I mentioned the fact that I am from the States and he was surprised. Apparently, my German accent is pretty legit. I’m shocked that he didnt guess though, because no matter how good my accent is, my actual German is VERY rough compared to a native speaker like himself. It was nice to get that kind of compliment though, I mean, vocab you can learn, but accents are completely different.

I have one new class tomorrow morning, and then a discussion group for my Border class on Thursday. Hopefully, everything continues to work out.

Now, I think I can honestly say that I’ve saved the best photo for last. After picking up my readers this afternoon, I stopped by a discount store to look at scarves. Walking in to find the cash register, I noticed these: At least those socks looks comfy…




2 Responses to “The Beginning of Winter Semester 2010/11”

  1. Amy Says:

    Wow, deary your plate and bowl are full. You should have some “natives” read your papers and such for grammatical means if you are worried. See if you have a writing lab like we have here in the states. They have so many Rapunzels there, its disgusting. : )

  2. Sarah Says:


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