Kultur 6 – Allie

As a pretty devout Catholic, the first article was pretty interesting to me, because I’ve grown up learning about Martin Luther’s break from the Catholic Church. Martin Luther’s 95 theses established the need for reform in the Catholic Church, but it also established the first Protestant church, somewhat by accident. I think it’s fascinating that Martin Luther’s way of thinking has influenced Germany in much more ways than religion. It explains their somewhat simplistic architecture and their love of classical orchestra concerts. I especially liked the part that explained why Germany has such a large book market – Luther wanted everyone to read the Bible after he had translated it into German. The article also claimed that anti-Semitism might have stemmed from Luther’s personal beliefs also, which I thought was a pretty large claim to make, considering Germany’s rather rough history with their Jewish population.

The other article that really interested me was the German Privacy article. I thought the author was pretty correct in his synthesis of American door policies: if it’s open, come in, if it’s closed, come back another time. The German way of a closed door surprised me in some ways and didn’t in others. It’s so different from America that it was startling at first, but as I thought about the closed door policy more, it kind of fits with what we’ve learned about “stereotypical” Germans this whole semester. They tend to be more private and direct than Americans, so it fits that their door would be closed for privacy, but then if you open it they would tell you exactly if they want you to be there or not.

AMD 6 – Allie

I really enjoyed watching a documentary for my last AMD, so I decided to watch another one. This time, I watched a documentary from the History Channel about the rise of the Third Reich in Germany. I have studied about this before in some history classes in high school, so I knew that the German economy was hurting pretty badly when Hitler came to power. I had heard about his promises to make Germany a great nation, but I wanted to see if I could learn anything new about the beginnings of World War II.

The most interesting part of the documentary for me was how much Hitler used children to spread his power across Germany. The Hitler Youth and Hitler Maidens had a huge impact on German culture. The children took oaths to give their lives if necessary for the Führer. One woman wrote about how her children would not listen to her anymore, because they belonged to the Führer first, and to their families second. The most horrifying part of the Hitler Maidens was how they were basically used as breeders for the “desired” races. They would force the girls to go to camp, where they would have a boys camp nearby. The girls had to certify that they were “Aryan” in heritage before they could attend. In one instance that the documentary talked about, 35 out of 41 girls at a camp came home pregnant.

The documentary also told the story of a young Jewish girl who escaped from Germany before the full-fledged transport of Jewish people began. It told about how she had to pay her taxes for the coming year in advance, even though she was travelling to America and would not be in Germany at all the next year. The documentary said that when Jewish people escaped from Germany, they had to leave approximately 90% of their assets behind. The most startling figure from the documentary said that about 30% of the German war effort was paid for by left-behind Jewish wealth.

I don’t think it would be correct to say that I enjoyed this documentary, because it spoke to a lot of heavy topics in German history. However, it was very informational and helped me to better understand how an entire country could come under the power of such a twisted leader.

Kultur 5 – Allie

As a woman who intends to be a mother and work at the same time, the first article, “Women Rise”, really struck me as interesting. I didn’t know before that Germany had only half day schools, and it’s hard for me to imagine being a working mother in that situation. If signing your child up for afternoon classes places you in the “bad mother” category, then I’d be there in a heartbeat. It’s so important for women to be in the workforce as well as men, and half-day schooling is limiting the opportunities for women to work and be mothers. I thought it was interesting that the author mentions Angela Merkel, because although she is a great example of a very successful German woman, she also has no children. This is not to say that children get in the way of success, but that there should be ways for women to work and be good mothers at the same time in Germany.

I also found “Rules of the Street” to be interesting. It repeats a theme that we’ve heard before in the Kultur readings, that Germans are a little less polite to strangers than Americans. It didn’t surprise me that Germans don’t typically say Entschuldigung when bumping into someone, because we also read about how bikers would run over someone walking in the bike lane.

I really liked the second Kultur reading in Vorsprung, about “Bekannte oder Freunde?”. Sometimes I think that Americans have too loose a definition of friendship, which I am definitely guilty of as well. I like that Germans have specific ways to distinguish between someone that they know and someone that they are very familiar and share an intimate relationship with. Part of this might have to do with the fact that Americans have only one form of you, whereas German has Sie oder du, which is another way to distinguish between friends and acquaintances.

AMD 5 – Allie

For this AMD, I decided to learn more about German history and culture as opposed to more German language, so I fully embraced my inner German and watched a documentary. It was about the rise and fall of the Berlin wall, and its effects on Germany and its citizens. A lot of the documentary focused on the hardships that the people living in Germany at that time faced. The most highlighted difficulty was the separation of families and loved ones, as the wall literally went up overnight, giving no time for families to make sure they were all together. The documentary told stories of people hiding in cars, secretly catching trains, dodging bullets, digging tunnels, and crafting hot air balloons to escape from the East to the West. It was absolutely crazy to learn about the lengths that people would go to in order to escape communism. I also found it fascinating how the wall continued to be augmented as the long years of separation dragged on. The wall started as a small, makeshift barrier to prevent East Germans from leaving, because the economy of East Germany would collapse without a sizeable work force. However, as people continued to escape from East Germany, the wall got taller and stronger, and included electrified wires, nail beds, dogs, watch towers, guards, brushed sand, mine fields, and several other barriers to deter escapees. Guards had orders to prevent people from escaping at any cost, which often included killing people who tried to leave.

The German parts of this documentary were dubbed over in English, but I could still grab a few of the words that were spoken. I noticed a lot of the conversational past that we have been talking about, because I could pick up on the ge- beginning of the past participle. I heard one example of a separable verb in the conversational past also, when someone used the word angekommen!

Kultur 4 – Allie

A strong theme in this chapter’s culture texts were modes of transportation. Starting with “Two-Wheeled Teutons”, which described how German bikers have the right of way, and they are well aware of it. I thought it was interesting that Germans put such big stake in biking everywhere, whereas in the US we still drive pretty much everywhere. My best friends from home live less than a mile down the road from my house, but I still drive over to see them. I’m sure that in Germany it would be far more common to bike over to see them, because it is such a short distance to travel. Another interesting point is that bikes do not yield to pedestrians on foot in the bike lane like cars yield to pedestrians in the roadway. If a person on foot steps right in front of a biker, it is likely that the biker will run straight into them. I thought this was an interesting contrast to the US as well, where we have a stunning lack of bike lanes, and bikes usually yield to people on foot, or go around them.

I also thought that “Fare Dodgers Beware” was an interesting read. I never knew of a public transportation system that operated on the honor system. I think that it’s certainly an interesting way to run the German transportation system, where you can board a train or bus without the correct ticket – or without a ticket at all. However, you will be held accountable eventually, even though you’ll still make it to your intended destination. This is so different from the public transportation in the US, where your ticket needs to be checked before you can board the train or bus at all. I’m not sure where these differences in trust stem from, but perhaps it comes from what the author mentions in the first paragraph – the American belief in the occasional free lunch. Maybe we brought all the ticket checking upon ourselves, as a country full of people trying to get their free lunches where they could.

AMD 4 – Allie

For this AMD, I decided to use Duolingo again to see if I could learn some more new vocabulary, or review some that we had learned in class. It turns out that I left off last time just before clothing, so it was good to review the clothing vocabulary for the upcoming test. I learned that you can tell someone that your clothes are dirty by saying “Meine Kleidung ist schmutzig”. The next category that I worked on was reviewing conjugations of common present tense verbs. I was able to test out of this subject without going through the lessons, so that made me feel more confident about my conjugation abilites. Next, I moved on to learning vocabulary about nature, which we haven’t gotten to yet in class. I learned that a flower is die Blume, which is very easy to remember if you think of a flower as a bloom. I remembered that we had learned der Baum in class from Oh, Wie Schön ist Panama! I learned new words including der Himmel (sky), die Sonne (sun), and der Stern (star), so now I can talk about the weather a little bit. I can also tell you if der Wind ist kalt oder warm.

Next I learned vocabulary about animals. This was a good reminder that for animals, we don’t use essen, we use fressen. I also learned that the word animal is das Tier, and a pet is das Haustier. Adding the word for house on the front of the word for animal is a clever way to indicate that an animal lives in your house. Some of the animal vocabulary was a review, like Ente, Bär, Hund, and Katze. But some was new, like Pferd (horse), Kuh (cow), Vogel (bird), and Spinne (spider).

It was good to review old vocabulary and learn some new things that we haven’t talked about yet in class! Duolingo tells me I’m about 12% fluent in German!

AMD 3 – Die Familie Trapp – Allie

For this AMD, I decided to watch “Die Familie Trapp”, which is the original German version of The Sound of Music. I really enjoyed watching this movie because it was interesting to see the differences in the Austrian and German dialects of Deutsch. Every time that someone greeted another person, they used the “Grüß Gott” greeting, not “Guten Morgen” or “Gute Nacht”. Additionally, they pronounced some words differently than I am used to hearing them in class. One that stuck out to me was that one man said “bitt-ay” instead of “bitt-eh” when saying bitte. I hadn’t heard that pronunciation of bitte before. I wasn’t able to understand all of the German yet, so the English subtitles were very helpful. However, I could pick out some words, such as “Entschuldigung” and “verheiratet”. I also picked up some phrases, inluding “Nemen Sie platz, bitte”, which I recognized as “take a seat, please”. There were also some cognates that I easily understood, like “Capitan”, which only had a slightly different pronunciation from the english word “captain”. Towards the end of the movie, one of the children begs for some food while the family waits to be admitted to America. I thought it tied in nicely with the Kapitel 3 vocabulary when she told Maria that she had found some “Brot” and “Käse”.

I thought that it was interesting also to note how much German culture made its way into a movie set in Austria. On more than one occasion, we see the Trapp boys dressed in Lederhosen, and a couple of characters turn out to be secret members of the Nazi party as it took power in Germany. Additionally, when the Trapp family is waiting to be let into America, the American man who speaks German to them has a pretty noticeable American accent. He pronounces his rs like an American, as we noticed when we watched the video in class of the man saying “Ich komme aus Amerika”. It was neat for me to be able to pick out different accents in German.

I haven’t ever actually watched “The Sound of Music” all the way through in English, so I can’t comment on the similarities and differences between the two movies. However, I thought that “Die Familie Trapp” was a great movie to help me learn a little more German (at least pronunciation!) and perhaps a little about dialect differences, too.

Kapitel 3 Kulture

I found the first two articles, both about beer consumption in Germany, to be very interesting. The first article, “Beer, Brewskies, and Liquid Bread” seemed to glorify German beers, praising the wide variety of alcoholic beverages in Germany, alongside the fact that per year, each German drinks on average 115 liters of beer. It seems to me that beer is seen as more of a typical beverage in Germany, like getting a juice or soda in the US. It’s seen as more standard to be drinking a casual beer, such as after work, as mentioned in the article. It’s also interesting to note that 3/4 of the breweries in the European Union can be found in Germany! No wonder they have so many varieties of beer.

The second article, “Capping the Bottle”, painted a little grimmer picture of drinking in Germany. It stated several reasons for wanting to remove public drinking from the culture, including crime rates and public drunkenness. However, for as many people that are for getting rid of public drinking, there are others who are firmly for maintaining this tradition, citing it as a right of the citizens of Germany. It’s interesting for me to note that although there is factual evidence that banning public drinking may be good for society, people are holding on strongly to this tradition that is one of the most unique parts of Germany compared to other first world countries.

Finally, I thought that the article “The Dark Side: Optimists are Idiots” was a good way to build off of the culture readings from last chapter. We discussed how Germans like to complain and are very direct, and this article combined both of those ideas. Not only are Germans pessimistic and direct, but they are directly pessimistic. Again, it’s quite a shift from the happy-go-lucky world view of your stereotypical American. Perhaps this difference could be contributed to our different histories – Germany’s hasn’t exactly been the easiest, and while America isn’t without her blemishes, she was founded purely on a sense of freedom and optimism that may contribute to our stereotype today.

AMD 2 – Facebook in Deutsch

For this AMD, I decided to switch my Facebook language to Deutsch and see how many words I could recognize. The first word that caught my attention was the word for ‘homepage’, which is ‘Startseite’. I thought it was interesting to note how literal this translation is. Reading my friends’ posts in Deutsch was a bit more difficult, but I was able to pick up words here and there, such as Wochen and Jahre. The search bar, which said “Suche nach Personen, Orten und Dingen” was easy to translate. ‘Dingen’ is pretty close to things, and Personen is a cognate. The hardest word here was Orten, which I found out means places. I figured out that if I think of “Wo” meaning ‘where’, the o will remind me that Orten means places, which could answer the question, where? I also learned that Facebook in Deutsch does not use a word for the singular “they”. Instead, a post shared by a non-gendered page will show up as, zum Beispiel, “Michigan Cru hat seine/ihre Veranstaltung geteilt”. The seine/ihre literally translates to “his/her”, which I took to mean “their”. I thought this was an interesting distinction from English, because technically in English we should also use his/her instead of the singular they, grammatically speaking. It made me think that maybe Deutsch is a little less fluid than English, in terms of strictly following grammatical structure. English, at least recently, has adapted a lot to popular culture in terms of word meanings, e.g., the singular they or the word ‘literally’. I would be interesting in investigating if Deutsch has any words that have adapted like that in recent years.

Now that we have learned how to conjugate some verbs in class, reading some posts was relatively straightforward. A clickbait article that showed up on my timeline was captioned “Alle seine Schüler lieben seine Klasse, aber sie haben keine Ahnung, was er nach der Schule nach Hause geht…”. I didn’t actually read the article, but I could understand the vast majority of this caption, which was pretty exciting! I also now know another word for der Student, which is der Schüler. From the little bit of searching around that I did, Student means student, while Schüler is more like saying “pupils”.

Overall, Facebook was pretty easy to use in Deutsch! The many cognates were helpful in navigating the pages. It was fun to try and read as many posts as I could in Deutsch and then check them with the English translation to see how well I did. It seems to me like this would be a good way to practice learning new vocabulary and review sentence structure in a casual way.

Kapitel 2 Kultur

The first article, The German National Pastime: Whining, Bitching and Moaning struck me as rather interesting, because I always thought of America as a sort of haven for complaining as well. A lot of the conversations that I have with my peers include complaining about the weather, upcoming exams, or homework so hard that it should be illegal. I think that’s what the author is trying to point out about Germans as well – they use complaints as a way of carrying on conversation. A part that I found most interesting was towards the end, where the author mentioned that if you tell a German that they complain a lot, and that they actually have it pretty good, that they will agree with you and explain why they complain all the time. I see a lot of similarities to my American experience in that – my peers and I have the privilege of attending one of the best universities in the world, but we can still find things to complain about.

I also found the article entitled Brutally Honest: “Have You Gained Weight?” to be very intriguing. It is true that in America we are super polite about a lot of things. If someone asks if they look good, we always say yes. It took me 19 years to tell my grandma that I don’t like some of the meals that she cooks for me. It seems to me that the German way of saying exactly what you mean would be really refreshing, not having to tiptoe around what you actually mean. I wouldn’t have had to suffer through eating meatloaf if I could just tell people what I’m thinking.

Finally, I really related on a more personal level to the article By the Numbers: An Obsession with Statistics. As an engineering student, I am always saying “show me the numbers”. My brain just processes numbers better than other kinds of descriptions. I feel like the German described in this article would appreciate this way of thinking, because statistics just use numbers to describe things instead of words. My family also watches a lot of documentary/history type shows when I’m at home, so I can relate to the German people’s love for facts and interesting information. I think it’s awesome to be knowledgeable about a lot of different things, so that’s something new that I can really appreciate about the German people.