Skip to main content

History/German double major enjoys intricacies of learning a foreign language

Ryan Owens

An update from Ryan Owens, history and German double major, and European studies minor.

Before high school I was told that learning German would be much more difficult than learning Spanish, so I chose to study German as it seemed interesting, unique, and challenging. From then on I really have enjoyed it; one can discover much about another culture, another society through language, because one uses language for everything: to identify, to analyze, to think, to converse. What also interests me is forging into the unknown and studying another language does that. Not only have I been learning German for roughly six to seven years, I have recently been interested in Korean (though at a very basic level) after becoming friends with some South Korean exchange students.

Life as a language student is, at times, like looking through the eyes of another person. You get to study and experience all the varied customs, values, and experiences other people have gone through. As a history student, knowing German complements my interests in learning about Germany’s vast history. I have very skilled German professors at Illinois State who know their areas through and through. My classes are challenging but rewarding. Often we discuss literature or film with some emphasis in history because literature is a great way to experience a person or a movement and the values and allusions within.

I like that the other students I have met or been in classes with show the same passion or interests in learning about the intricacies of German as well as the opportunities and skill it provides. I also like knowing that I am bilingual and can hopefully use that skill in the future. I enjoy that my professors, all three of them, keep the enthusiasm up and the will to keep learning German going. This is very important because it makes you want to commit and learn more and suffer through the difficulties of a language.

I studied abroad in Bonn, Germany, at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität Bonn before and during its Sommersemester (beg. of March-end of July). I made there friends of different backgrounds—Midwesterners, South Koreans, Taiwanese and Chinese, and German. I traveled too. I went to Paris, Amsterdam, Italy (Rome, Assisi, Sienna, Florence), and quite a few cities in Germany. One of the greatest advantages was being able to actively use my second language if I wanted too. Well, the food and drink was just as amazing. One of my interesting stories was when I went hiking with a group in the Eifel National Park. We hiked all day, found a restaurant on the middle of a lake (Terrasse am See), and ended up catching the last bus of the day to the train station…and then the last train back to Bonn. Going to Amsterdam was very interesting as well because Dutch looks somewhat German with more English thrown in. Yet it isn’t. It’s Dutch. I could understand about 30-40 percent and pronounce 0 percent. The language issues notwithstanding, I did get to watch an important soccer match between Germany and Italy through a bar window at midnight and celebrate thereafter when Germany won. Amsterdam is a beautiful city.

After I graduate, I would like to be part of a research team that goes to sites or archives to support, refute, or discover new ideas about particular historical topics. With this, you are always learning something new or looking at something in a different way. I want to expand my knowledge and be a part of something that advances knowledge and further explores the mysteries of our world. How this is supposed to translate to a job. . . gar keine Ahnung!

Comments