Foreign Language: GERM 341

Survey of German Literature I: The Age of Goethe (GERM 341)

I’ll be honest: I was terrified to take German Lit.

In highschool, I was homeschooled. I learned German through an online course, with no one but myself to correct my pronunciation, spelling, and grammar as I learned the language. I assumed, because of this, that when I came to Longwood, I would be placed into a fairly low level of German, likely a low 200-level. Instead, I discovered that I had been placed into a 300-level German class. Furthermore, this class was immersive — all the class discussion and the classical literature we were reading was in German. Needless to say, I was extremely anxious.

The first day of class was nerve-wracking. From the moment class began, I could tell that the other six students were all at a much higher level of German than myself. I could string together a basic sentence, maybe a few if I remembered the vocabulary; my classmates were composing entire paragraphs on the fly as they spoke.

It was thanks to the teacher that I felt I was eventually able to fit in at the class’s level. Dr. Brett Martz, or Herr Martz as he is known to his students and colleagues, was an extremely encouraging teacher. He let me know from day one that he believed that if I was placed into this level, I could do well in the class. His animated teaching style was also a big support for me; he always made sure the whole class understood what he was explaining before he continued on, no matter how much he had to repeat himself in German.

Soon enough, I felt confident enough to answer questions in class and to write the short one- to two sentence responses necessary for taking the quizzes. But then came the part of the class I had been dreading the most: the essay. Like the rest of the class, the essay was in German, and not only did I have to string together cohesive paragraphs with the correct vocabulary and proper structure, I also had to create a compelling argument about literature that I had only understood after a lot of struggle and explanation. But in the end, I did it — and then again, for the second essay later in the semester. (The first essay is below.)

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I can’t begin to put into words how amazing it felt when I finished that first essay. Two months prior, if I had been told that I could write a three-page literary analysis essay entirely in German, I wouldn’t have believed it. But with the help of my German professor, my German class, and my perseverance, I managed to accomplish the impossible.