Learning German was the best “half-baked” decision I have made. As I was entering Junior High, I had the option to learn the language of my choice. Due to the notorious teachers of the high school Spanish and French department, I elected to learn German. This sparked a passion in my life.
I quickly became German club president of my senior class and was obsessed with German films, food, and culture. This is all without having a German heritage or having visited Germany. When I finished all of the German classes offered at my high school a year before my graduation, I knew that I wanted to continue with German in college.
Once I reached UCLA, however, I questioned whether I was actually qualified to continue German as a minor. Sure I knew my Wortschatz, but could I really make it in a class full of people from Germany, with German heritage, or that were long-time German residents?
After subduing my pride and walking into German 4, I quickly realized that my fears were unwarranted. German classes at UCLA became my favorite classes. The teachers were always warm toward students and passionate about the subject. I was able to learn about German current events, practice my German with classmates, and work towards proficiency/fluency.
I continued with German upper-division literature classes that were clearly out of my comfort zone. I was now reading German classical literature and having seminars for 4 hours a week, all in German. Though my German proficiency was not on par with many of my classmates, I experienced the most growth in these classes. I was learning about German culture and severely increasing my uptake of new German words every week. I would recommend anyone interested in languages to challenge themselves with tough foreign literature courses. It will not be comfortable, but it will be extremely rewarding.
My last few classes at UCLA directly contributed to my everyday habits and career choices. In German 153 we watched the German news on a weekly basis. Although this was tough, I found that it improved my spontaneous speech. I continued to listen to the same news (Tagesschau), but by podcast everyday, to continue my auditory uptake. The next quarter I took Business German. This was the most practical and relevant class I have taken at UCLA. Every class we learned about German economy, business practices, tax brackets, and consumer behavior. At the end of the quarter we created our German resumes. This not only prepared us for future employment, but also taught us cultural differences inherent in business practices. This class validated my aspirations to do business abroad
I often say that the Germanic Department saved my experience at UCLA. I was not particularly fond of my major’s department, and identified much more with my German minor. German TA’s and professors went out of their way to help and listen to every student. I met no jaded professors or TA’s. Every teacher I had was a fair grader and enforced a sense of community within the class. I cannot speak more highly of my experience with the UCLA Germanic Department and hope to make them proud with my future business ventures in Germany.