Reflections inspired by a German class for second graders

Our eldest is beginning an after school German class today. This is not the sort of news that normally makes one reflective, but here I go anyway.

In a perfect world, I should be the one to teach my kids to speak German. Implicit in that perfection would be my knowing how to speak German. My father spoke German, fluently. In the perfect world I mentioned, he would have taught it to me when I was little. I would have soaked it up, and it would be as natural as English to me.

In the imperfect world that formed me, my father did no such thing. He was a teenager during the Second World War, living in the USA and speaking German as smoothly as his immigrant parents. Not surprisingly, something in that combination convinced him not to speak German to his children.

I took German as a freshman in college. It was either a language or Math, and I felt done with Math. I picked German. Maybe something in my genes would mold it to my tongue more securely than the high school Spanish that had always merely swilled about in my mouth before dribbling down my chin.

German 101 supplied me the worst grades of my academic career, if you discard the high school Geography class I nearly failed because I was too busy protesting the methods of the high school Geography class and the methods of high school in general.

The edition I used didn't have such a lovely cover, which is probably why I wasn't inspired to do better in class.

The edition I used didn’t have such a lovely cover, which is probably why I wasn’t inspired to do better in class.

After freshman year, I transferred to a school that required no more Math or foreign languages out of me, which was good since I was done applying myself mathematically and I had no aptitude for foreign languages.

In fact, I was a pretty lousy student overall.

As the undergraduate years rolled by, it became clear that I was a poor classroom learner. Yet, for the very best of reasons (I couldn’t find a job), I attempted graduate school.

Graduate school taught me only one thing: there is nothing like higher education to suck the life out of a subject matter you love (or thought you loved).

I thought I loved History, until I tried to pursue it as a graduate degree. Apparently, it was something else I loved, an academic Cyrano de Bergerac, hiding in the bushes, feeding enchanting lines to the deceitful mouth of History. History itself is mind-numbingly boring; they taught me that in one semester of graduate school.

Since I’d learned everything I needed to know about History, I determined I didn’t require more than one semester of grad school.

That was the end of my formal education in German or Math or History or anything. Abrupt, but okay for a rotten student.

My son is excited about his German class. I hope that excitement lasts. I hope he’s a good student. I hope he inherited his mother’s love for school.

I hope he goes on to become much more than a grad school dropout who can’t even speak German.


38 comments on “Reflections inspired by a German class for second graders

  1. Gibber says:

    Once he learns German he’ll be able to say all kinds of things about his Dad and you’ll never know..You’d better learn it quickly and secretly lol.
    I had French on one side and German on the other in my family. They never taught me either. I wished they had.

  2. GoofyEd says:

    Not a single day in Grad School, but did take 7 years to complete “University” studies. No doubt I had credits galore, but had no desire for Master’s focus.

  3. Me too. I sailed through school. No troubles, except for my entire academic career. I was an excellent test taker, and an award winning bullshitter, so I fooled them all. Never made it to grad school, though. Something about those GRE’s sounded like more school than I cared go through. I think we should start petitioning colleges for honarary degrees now that we’re world famous bloggers. Good? Maybe the University of Phoenix would be interested.

  4. tom w says:

    I got through Junior College just fine, even made the deans list twice. Then, I realized my older friends with four years of college couldn’t find jobs-Nixon was President, wages and prices were frozen, seven percent inflation, eight percent prime rate-so I took a job in a warehouse then got promoted to sales, and then management. When I left that profession 27 years latter, I was the only one of my peers, in the upper mid west, without a degree. I always thought a week of practical experience was worth a semester of college.

  5. Based on his previous interest in Germany this may be the perfect subject. The thing about the way language is taught in the US is students never really get a chance to use it enough that they really learn it. That was my experience at least, lots of years of French and its all gone because I never spoke it regularly. So I think your whole family needs to learn German so he has people to practice with!

  6. So, interesting thing. My ex-boyfriend’s parents were born and raised in Mexico. When they came to the United States, they were given a really hard time for not being able to speak English well. They felt they were targets, and didn’t get good jobs, etc. Therefore, when they had their family (4) kids, they spoke Spanish to one another, but to the kids, they specifically spoke English only because they didn’t want their kids mistreated or have any difficulty like they did.

    Except, in our adult word today, that was to their detriment. People would look at Paul (my then boyfriend) and start speaking Spanish. He’d have to say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t know Spanish” and they would give him a look. Like, you’re kidding, right?

    The parents thought they were giving their kids an advantage, when sadly it was the opposite.

    Today’s world, several jobs require bilingual person. Often English / Spanish or English / Mandarin or English / Vietnemese, etc. I see it more frequently on job postings. (especially ones with assembly lines, Mfg industry, etc. in California.)

    So GOOOOO German!

    I could imagine speaking German in World War II times was frowned upon since we were fighting the Germans. When I was in high school, I asked my Oma to teach me, but the only time she spoke German was when she was in Germany visiting her sister. When she came to the states to marry my Opa, people didn’t like that she was German – so she spoke only English. Same thing with mom’s Japanese friend – her parents only spoke Japanese to each other, but to the kids- only English.

  7. I took German from grades 1 to 6 and… ich spreche nicht gut Deutch. I’m not sure if I spelled any of that correctly either! You should be forewarned that it doesn’t matter what you say in German, it will always sound like you’re swearing angrily.

  8. I was a terrible student in grade school and got progressively worse, I barely got though high school and through a series of bad management decisions got into university…Through some amazing twist of fate I have never enjoyed formal education, not until I worked closely with a Nobel Prize winner who struggled to get past his college years.

  9. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Gee, Scott, do I ever feel for you. I failed miserably at language. Couldn’t just couldn’t wrap my brain around it. Because I have a high IQ I sailed through school, bored out of my mind and always getting into trouble for speaking about how wrong teachers teach. That being said, I failed miserably at chemistry too. Just like language I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. LOVED English and Math if you can believe that. When I got into college I never worked so hard in my life. I hope your son sticks with the German and does well. Wouldn’t it be cool if he taught YOU? 🙂 Just a thought. 🙂 ❤

  10. amommasview says:

    German is not an easy language. Not even for a Swiss German or a German person. I can only imagine how hard it is to learn for someone who had a different mother tongue…

  11. Hey, where are ya? You haven’t posted in a while and I’m looking forward to reading.

    • So sorry to make you wait, but the day job has been sapping all my mental energy lately. Should have something later this week. Meanwhile, if you just can’t do without my words, I do have another blog and also (gulp!) books available. But since you probably aren’t trying to to spend money on books right now, maybe the other blog (check sidebar) would be best. I’m running the first of a two-parter on my critique of Moby Dick, and who doesn’t love vindictive whales, right?

  12. Ahdad says:

    It’s not the degree that makes the man. I know quite a few highly educated assholes.

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