Thursday, October 23, 2014

Learning | Learning a Language

My high school required each student to take at least two years of a foreign language. I had the luxury of choosing from Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, German and Russian. I heard many of my fellow students say they were taking Spanish, because they thought it was easy, or French, because they were of French heritage.  

I chose the German language. I am not even of German descent, but somewhere I had read that English was a Germanic language, and I hoped it would give me some insight into some Old English words. I enjoyed studying German so much, I took three years in high school...and then minored in German as an undergraduate.

Maybe I enjoyed the German language so much because of my teacher.   Frau Schueler was a native of Russia, but spent her childhood in Germany during the years leading up to World War II. Oh, and she was Jewish. She obviously had a love of words, and was happy to answer my questions about where words came from, or whether they were related to English words that seemed similar. 

It was all too easy to convince her to stop in the middle of a lesson and tell us stories about other countries.  She lived in a suburb of New Orleans, but left during summer break to travel all over the world.  Which meant she could say things like,"I never met a  Norwegian who did not speak perfect English," with such authority.

Der Zug ist noch nicht abgefahren (The train has not left yet.) 
From Ingrid Eulenfan's photostream on Some rights reserved.

I'll always remember her lesson about the prefixes an- and ab-. The verbs for arrive and depart are very similar, so she warned us to be careful with our prefixes. "If you mix up your an- and ab-, (snap!) whoops! you are on the wrong train!"

Julia Schueler became a published author, long after I was in her classroom.  Her biography, Elsewhere: A Memoir, is available through Link+. 

If you are studying a foreign language, or would like to study one, you can find help at the library.  I did a search for foreign language learning on SSJCPL's shiny new catalog.  Here are the results.


  1. That was a wonderful Blog Lori.

  2. Such a great topic! Leaning new languages gives you great appreciation for other cultures, too!