It is one thing to sit in a classroom where a professor who knows he’s speaking to foreigners teaches the class entirely in German; it is entirely another to blend in with 130 students, all of whom the professor presumes to be native speakers.
Two weeks ago, I joined the troop of Freie Universität students shopping for their courses this semester. I had the audacious idea that I could attend 3-4 two-hour classes in one day, and still be coherent at the end of it. Not so. After four hours of that regimen, my head literally hurt. After six, I capitulated. The good news is that I understood most everything, and even managed to take mostly grammatically correct German notes. The bad news is that when I study, say, Kant’s theory of enlightenment for my Klausur in July, I will likely need to memorize it twice: once for the general idea, and once for how to explain it in German.
Week two of the Sommersemester brought me a more settled schedule. I relinquished- to my disappointment and the relief of a good many university administrators- the idea of taking a beginner’s Spanish course, intermediate French, and the rest of my classes in German. I am now happily enrolled in a Friedrich Meineke Institute (the history department) seminar on “Sicherheit und Freiheit” (Security and Freedom), an Enlightenment Theory lecture class, an EU politics course, and a German literature and theater class. When my brain didn’t even hurt a bit after discussing the recognition of national sovereignty, the Westphalian Principle, and Hobbes in my Sicherheit und Freiheit Seminar, I felt positively victorious.