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5.4.2022: Alex on Language and Family History

Alex on Language and Family History Heading link

German Peer Tutor Alex on Language and Family History

As a kid, I freaked out a couple of babysitters because I used to sleep talk in English, Spanish, and German. I grew up in sunny South Florida where seeing alligators was a normal occurrence. I could only speak enough Spanish to converse with the Spanish-speaking grandparents of neighborhood kids I would play with. After I moved up north when I was eleven, my Spanish faded away.

My first word ever was “Gürtel”, which means “belt” in German. My father who is from Trier, Germany made sure to speak to us in his language whenever he could. From age three to eleven, I attended an incredible German school that taught German as a mother language. I threw many hissy fits about having to go to more school. I regret not appreciating my parents’ desire for me (and my sister) to learn German, but I was a kid, and what kid wants additional school?

My parents were relieved when my father got a new job up north because they were done with the constant heat of South Florida. But, leaving Florida meant leaving a good German school. After a fifteen-month “lay-over” in a suburb of Philadelphia, we moved to Ohio. I was now in seventh grade, and my middle and high school had German classes. My German classes were not great, so all the German skills that I built up as a kid were gone except for my listening skills. To this day I have no idea how, but, junior year I managed to get a 4 on the AP German test.

Ohio is just as boring as you would think, so for college, I wanted to go somewhere cool and landed on UIC. My dad requested for me to take one German course. If I did not like it after a semester, I would not have to study German anymore. Due to getting a 4 on the AP test, I had to start in a 200 level German class. I knew I did not have the skills to actually be in the class but I was thrust into German 211: Exploring German-Speaking Cultures taught by Professor Rott. That class kicked my butt in such a good way.

In class, I would copy down sentences and phrases the professor said because I was trying to understand how grammar worked. Professor Rott once complimented me on my note-taking. I just said thank you, but I wanted to say something like “Oh you know it’s just me trying to get used to the language again after I haven’t been taught it properly in seven years”. The class changed my life. I realized how much I loved learning German and that I wanted to get good at it. I kept taking German classes. Over summer and winter breaks, I taught myself all the grammar that people learn in German 101-104.

In less than three years, I went from barely being able to formulate basic sentences to being able to express coherent and (mostly) grammatically correct thoughts. I now get to help other students because I am a German peer tutor and a Language Learning Assistant. It is hard to learn a language and any additional resource is so nice to have, and I am glad I can be that resource for people. I am now a Germanic Studies and Public Policy double major. I will be working on a LASURI research project next school year about German housing policy with Professor Meyer. A lot of people in my life are proud of me and how hard I have worked in German. It is very nice to have a lot of support around me. I could not have done it without them.

I will be going to Germany this summer to take an intensive language course and travel around to different cities because of the generous support from the Fruman and Marian Jacobson “Bridges” fund. While I am in Germany this summer I will work on a couple posts about my travels so stay tuned!! I intend to do a lot of soul searching to figure out if I want to live in Germany after I graduate. I have dual citizenship, so it is an option for me. I just need to make sure it is something I want to do before I book a one-way ticket to Germany.