We’re not born fluent in any language, but it’s easy to learn our native tongue. Our parents and family speak it to us from day one, everyone in our environment speaks it, everything we see is written in it. We learn the history, the culture; we know our way around.
The vast majority of US-Americans don’t want to learn another language. Why should they? Everyone around them speaks American-English, and they aren’t going to travel to (much less live in) another country. Why struggle learning not only different words and sounds, but also a new way of thinking? Especially when it goes against habit, tradition, culture, environment: why bother?
Because of an inspiring teacher, I undertook a mighty struggle that spanned years at universities — including a few in Germany — and culminated in a PhD. After all that, I began my first career as a teaching professor of German at Carnegie Mellon University. Like all good teachers, I was excited about my subject and wanted my students to be just as excited. I wanted my students to recognize the beauties of the German language and culture.
But when I asked, “Who’s taking this class because it’s a requirement?” every hand went up. It could be demoralizing.
There are many parallels to what we’re seeking to accomplish.
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