In case you are not following ASC alum Molly Saunders’ blog–which I highly recommend–here’s a great post about the switch from language classroom to real-life immersion, complete with some helpful hints about actual language use in Upper Austria.
Originally posted on Adventuring in Austria:
I’ve slowly begun to conquer everyday German. I can usually order things, ask for help in stores, retell the events of my day, make small talk about the weather–basically all the things I could do before I came in theory, now I can handle with (something like) fluency. It’s a really steep learning curve, especially when dealing with a strong dialect (Upper Austrian). I also have have the double-edged sword of generally “passing” as Austrian. I don’t get stares and comments that I might if I was more obviously foreign, but I also get less patience with my German attempts. I’ve learned that the inflection of bitte? is paramount. Random person at the bus stop says something that I don’t understand. Rather than saying bitte? as if I’m confused, which leads to repetition in English at best, or a “never mind” dismissal at worst, I say bitte? as if I was zoning out and didn’t hear them. It’s a subtle difference, but it makes people repeat their question or statement in German, so I get a second chance to figure it out.
I do speak a lot of English with my host family. I love to talk to them, and we can have much broader and more interesting conversations in English, because I lack the vocabulary to discuss history, world events, legislation, stereotypes and cultural differences, etc in German–to the depth that I want to discuss them, anyway. I know that, ideally, I should struggle through with German and acquire the fluency and vocabulary that way…but nobody’s perfect. I start my German class on Monday at the Linzer Volkshochshule, and as it meets for two hours a day, four days a week, I know that I will rapidly begin to synthesize all of the knowledge I’ve been somewhat passively acquiring. At least, I hope so.
On Reading Two Recent Memoirs by Afro-Germans
Two recent memoirs by German authors with an African connection emphasize that German history cannot be written without including the histories and perspectives of black Germans (as well as that of many other non-white people).
In Deutsch sein und Schwarz dazu [Being German and also Being Black], published in 2013 with Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, author Theodor Michael takes a long and probing look back at his experiences as a black German. Born in 1925 to a white German mother from the Eastern Prussian provinces and a black Cameroonian father, Michael’s childhood and youth coincided with the decline of the democratic German Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism.
In a low key style Michael recollects his participation in the infamous Völkerschauen [colonial peoples exhibits] organized by circusses and zoos. He describes his attempts to get by as hotel page and as extra in some of the Third Reich’s anti-British colonial films. And he details the toll that life under the Nuremberg race laws took on his body and mind. While his siblings managed to get out of Germany, Theodor Michael stayed behind, spending the last years of the regime as a forced laborer in a factory outside of Berlin, where he survived the war. After liberation, he managed to get into the Western zone, where he then tried to rebuild his life.
Millions of people know about Amon Goeth, the commander of the former National Socialist concentration camp in Plaszow-Krakov in Poland, from Ralph Fienne’s performance of this character in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List (1993). This also applies to Jennifer Teege, for whom Amon Goeth was a distant historical figure until that specific day a few years ago, when she discovered that Goeth was in fact her biological grandfather.
For Teege, the daughter of a Nigerian father and a white German mother (Monika Goeth), the discovery was a shock. As a Black German who had lived in Israel and worked with Holocaust survivors, she had been acutely aware of Germany’s history, but had also felt to stand on the “good” side of the German discourse about the Nazi past.
In her memoir Amon: Mein Großvater hätte mich erschossen [Amon: My Grandfather Would Have Killed Me], Teege offers a moving account of how the discovery affected her personally as well as a unique perspective on Germany’s attempts at coming to terms with the past. Jennifer Teege will visit Agnes Scott College during the week of April 14 – 17, 2014. She will read from her memoir and discuss her experiences. For more information, see the poster below. Please contact Prof. Gundolf Graml, Dir. of German Studies, with any questions at ggraml[at]agnesscott.edu.
ASC students who took German 340 “Afro-German History and Culture” will remember our interview with Lisa Dixon, an Afro-German woman who told us about her experience as child of a white German mother and African-American GI.
Lisa Dixon is also featured in the documentary “Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story” by director Regina Griffin. This documentary focuses on the story of Mabel Grammar, an activist who after World War II began to arrange adoptions of so-called “mixed-race” babies from Germany to African-American families, and is scheduled for a screening at the AMC Parkway Pointe 15 on September 2, 7pm.
Here’s the trailer:
Agnes Scott College just released a new video showcasing the opportunities offered by its Liberal Arts Curriculum. Check it out, it also mentions where studying German can get you:
Since 1991, the German Parliament, called Bundestag, has been meeting again in the Reichstag. Built by the Kaiser, burnt down by the Nazis, and then lingering in the no-man’s-land along the Berlin Wall for decades, this building synthesizes more than others the many layers of German history. Continue reading