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Languages Matter: Why we learn German (Jeremy Woltereck-Pham, German 202)

Submitted by Michael Neininger on March 19, 2019 - 12:33pm
Jeremy Woltereck-Pham
Jeremy Woltereck-Pham

As daunting as it may seem, to learn a language is to suddenly gain the spectacular ability to connect with people from all around the world; to be able to exude smiles, laughter, happiness, and understanding from individuals one might otherwise struggle to communicate with. At the core of every culture, you will find language as an integral element, and learning that language will inherently bestow upon you a greater understanding of the people, allowing you to make boundless connections to those we might previously have deemed “foreign.” To quote Nelson Mandela, he once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”   


Learning a language is definitely not a simple undertaking, but an introduction to a completely different reality could never be simple. The human brain has spectacular abilities, which we gravely underestimate. Without even trying it wouldn’t be long until you have one foot through that door into an alternate reality, beginning to understand little snippets of conversations, text here and there, during which your abilities continue to grow.


For some, like me, learning a language would be an excellent way to celebrate and connect to your heritage. My mother is a native German speaker, and therefore I have gained a sense of familiarity with German, a sense of homeliness, though my German is far from perfect. Although German is certainly the language I have put the most time into (of course other than English), I have also begun to dabble in several other languages merely to entertain the possibility that one day I may simply catch a phrase or sentence someone says, a feeling which is much greater than the seemingly everyday occurrence would indicate.


After some time dedicated to a language, you will look back and be stunned at how far you’ve come. The amount of speaking and comprehension abilities obtained would likely seem something impossible from the perspective of your past self.


And, if all else isn’t enough, friends will certainly be impressed.