Thursday, March 12, 2009

Guten Tag Deutschland! (Good Day Germany)

CHICKS ROCK! wants you to welcome Bridget back as a guest blogger this week:

Bridget is a senior at Vassar College, studying Political Science and Women's Studies. She loves watching movies with her younger brother and playing rugby for her school.

Ever since being abroad in Denmark for a semester, I've been fascinated how language serves as a key to understanding the fundamental values and viewpoints of a society. For instance, Denmark's value of treating people equally is reflecting in their language, as there is no formal way of addressing someone, unlike how Spanish has “Usted” and German has “Sie.” On a functional level, knowing a little Danish went a long way for me in my daily errands, navigating streets and reading menus.

Still infected with the traveling bug, I decided to take two German Studies classes last semester. I took The Culture of Transparency, a course tracing the dark undercurrents of Germany's totalitarian history and its utopian aspirations as a new international locus of culture, and a course called Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, which drew connections between these influential thinkers, studying their analysis of political systems, entire disciplines, and even the death of God.

What drew me most to the works of these authors and thinkers was how they were “masters of suspicion.” They exposed the hidden dark and powerful forces like economic motives, unconscious desires, and the will to power that shapes our reality. In class, I was deeply jealous that the German majors were able to read the original text, extracting deeper meanings in the words' charged German context. By not fully grasping the cleverness of the German language and the author's specific word choice, I felt like I was reading a muted down version of masterpieces. Too much was being lost in translation.

Curious to know more about a culture that produces such great works like “Death in Venice” and “The Three Penny Opera,” I've dedicated myself to studying the German language intensively. Class is everyday with an extra four drill sessions a week, where a fellow German student does blitz drills to get us more comfortable speaking the language and conjugating verbs. It's not easy memorizing the words for the multitude of German sausages and meats, but I am proud I'm pushing myself out of my comfort zone and I am not just 'coasting' my senior year. Also, I'm so excited that I can finally watch all the great German post-new cinema without relying on subtitles. And come April, I'll be reading Kafka's work in its original text!

Do you speak a second language? Have you ever been able to experience foreign literature or film in its original language?


Anonymous said...

Makes me wish I was more fluent in other languages (not to mention doing more traveling!).

Michal said...

Really cool...I speak a few languages (with varying degrees of fluency!) and think that language is a very important part of culture

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog, I love the author's ambition, even in her senior year of college. I'm definitely going to take some similar classes next semester, although I am sure learning a new language will prove to be a rather challenging task.

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