STUDY ABROAD: Germany

Historic town of Berchtesgaden with Watzmann mountain, Bavaria, GermanyJohn le Carré is not the only proponent of learning German. Harald Braun and Kurt Gamerschlag share the benefits of learning the language of Goethe in its homeland.

“There are many reasons to learn German in Bonn, or Germany in general. I’ll name three for any prospective student coming to Bonn:

Bonn is both small and large. With about 350,000 inhabitants, it offers much and at the same time is easy to get around.

Bonn is very international. Numerous UN institutions have their homes here.

Bonn is the former capital. For those interested in history like me, you still get a taste of what it might have been like in the days up until the end of communism in Eastern Europe. The university, in addition, is a powerhouse in many fields, including mathematics and astronomy.

And lastly, the broad mix of Germans living in Bonn makes it pretty easy to understand the German spoken here—until Karneval time rolls around—then you’ll get your fair share of Rhenish dialect, which, to my ears, is wonderful.”

Harald Braun is chair of the nonprofit Braun Foundation for International Exchange (http://www.braun-stiftung.org/en/) which has been fostering international educational exchange since 1987.

“Why

study German in Germany, i.e., why study any language in the country native to the language:

a) for linguistic reasons: you will not only learn the standardized ‘high’ German in school in reading and listening but will, outside the classroom, immediately be confronted with the nonstandardized colloquial and regional version both in accent and dialectic grammar and vocabulary, i.e., a third language you need to adapt to immediately;

b) for sociocultural reasons: I guess that many, if not most, of us learn a foreign language not for diplomatic or career reasons but because we are interested in the language itself and in the culture and people expressed in and through that language. Of course, many aspects of that can be taken in from books, videos, films, i.e., through some sort of medium that has its own view and standard. But nothing beats direct contact with people—good, bad, and indifferent—and with their ways of expressing themselves in the country and culture where they live and talk and write not only to you as a language learner but as persons who are getting on with their lives and business and talk to their neighbors and bus drivers and to the wee free minister.

Dr. Kurt Gamerschlag is academic director of the German Pathway Colleges and Placement Centers for the Braun Foundation for International Exchange.

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