This past Thursday I attended my first ever German club meeting. A group of individuals eager to work on German language skills meets every week at the Second Wind Coffee shop. There is always someone from the language department to guide the conversations in a general direction, although side conversations are certainly still encouraged.
This past meeting we had two teaching assistants from the German department attend to lead the meeting. One was an American girl who has mastered German after extensive exposure to the German language and culture during her numerous study abroad experiences. The other was a native Austrian who was helpful and encouraging to all the members in attendance. We began with simple introductions and then broke into a casual time of chatting and coffee-sipping.
I personally spoke in German with the American teaching assistant, specifically telling her about my German language background. I spent approximately two and a half years attending a German international school in California. Before this amazing experience, I was very limited in my German communication abilities. However, now I am fluent in the language (although it is quite a bit rusty as I haven’t had the chance to speak to a German every day since middle school). I told her about my plan to use my German knowledge to study abroad in Germany for a semester next year.
My next short conversation was with an individual who had gone to the Technical University of Berlin to study and live. He was sponsored by the American Fulbright program. Only having been at OU for two months, I have already met quite a few individuals who have had experiences with Fulbright. I am now even more excited about applying for the program my senior year as a Global Engagement fellow.
Overall, the meeting was another great experience as part of my international experience here at OU. In fact, one of the main factors in choosing OU as a university was the availability of many opportunities organized by the university for students. OU is all about making sure all its students gain a global exposure in all aspects of their respective fields. As a new member of the Stammtisch, I am glad to be a part a unique opportunity to refresh my German. It is also great that I get to talk to others about pretty much anything in an entirely different language. I think anyone with any remote interest in German should join as each meeting offers something for language learners of all skill levels!
Last Thursday the Open Mic Night for the Fall 2015 semester was held at the Second Wind Coffee Shop. Jaci Gandenberger, OU’s Global Engagement Fellowship Coordinator, gave new and old Global Engagement fellows a warm welcome after everyone had settled down with their beverages. We began the relaxed event by giving a brief introduction of ourselves. Many fellows expressed their enthusiasm for studying abroad in their language of choice, be it a language they already know or one they wish to practice.
Different people in attendance shared interesting and relatable stories concerning their experiences abroad. One individual shared the time when he was lost in Japan. He was twelve years old at the time but was eventually reunited with his mother. Jaci told us about how she bridged the gap between cultures by forming a connection with a Moroccan family that also watched WWE.
Another fellow recalled his experiences while touring Paris. He noticed that a police car and ambulance were parked in front of a few buildings in the city. Although this was a bit unsettling, he was able to end on a happy note with his love for certain dishes found exclusively in France.
One girl talked about touring China. At the time, she didn’t think twice about needing to know much Chinese to simply have a meal in a certain restaurant. After waiting a long time in line to be served, she was finally able to communicate with the waiters and waitresses using the Japanese keyboard on her phone.
The event was truly interesting, both for those who have had extensive experience abroad and those who have never left the United States. I know I represent all of us in saying that we look forward to seeing this event take place again next semester. I can’t wait to listen to many more stories about such a diverse range of experiences!
Yesterday I attended a lecture by Professor te Velde on the importance of dialects, specifically the dialects of Germany. He began by arguing for the importance of dialect research. Simply put, many more emotions can be conveyed through spoken language. In contrast to the written language, dialects are based on sound which has stress, pitch and other characteristics. Standardized language is more of an “idealization.” A critical aspect of any dialect is that it is spoken before the introduction of a formal education. An individual’s “mother language” stands as a better indicator of an individual’s capacity for language.
He then continued with his own research while pointing out the urgency of dialect research needs. Regional variations are quickly becoming obsolete after each generation. The main dialects that were focused on were Kiezdeutsch, Eastern Yiddish, Hessian, and Swabian. Kiezdeutsch is spoken by youth who have a minority background and live in urban German cities. This dialect is distinct in that it breaks a few fundamental grammar rules of Standard German. On the other hand, Eastern Yiddish has impacted subtle aspects of everyday German. One example is adding a pause in between beginning words and the rest of a sentence.
The bulk of the presentation was on the differences between Standard German, Hessian, and Swabian. Standard German and Hessian show many differences, including flat and round sounds, diphthongs and monophthongs, and more relaxed vowels. Additionally, Hessian sees the reduction of verbal, adjectival and nominal endings.
There are two main factors which are thought to have influenced the development of Hessian. The region where it is spoken was historically Rhine-Franconian. Additionally, Hessian was less influenced by other languages like French. In general, it is thought that any dialect evolves based of the principle of least effort. Swabian is distinctive for its extra diphthongs, noticeable nasal-drops and shorter vowels. Both Swabian and Hessian have cut the –en ending to –e and use a different article to distinguish between plural and singular nouns. Swabian also exhibits noticeable nasal-drops and shorter vowels.
Professor te Velde expressed his support for the theory of standard-dialect symbiosis, or the idea that Standard German and the dialects are enrichening each other simultaneously. He then finished his presentation by reemphasizing the importance of the least effort principle and the relationship between words and their functions in language.