Monday, May 27, 2013

Why I Learn German

     I sometimes feel guilty learning German. Relative to other languages, Spanish seems more practical. French sounds more beautiful. And Japanese is just cool (or so I've been told). German, then, appears to be pushed to the fringes of most students' interest. No surprise. It's true that most Germans, particularly the younger generation are proficient in conversational English. It's also true that German words are compromised of a series of sounds that might not "roll off the tongue" as nicely as the French lexicon. But why should a language be judged by it's supposed practicality or aesthetics?
     There is an essence, a beauty, in every language that can only be imitated by others. Words may have direct counterparts in other languages, but they are never quite the same. They are nuances. They are nuances because the situations and events that precondition all speech are never the same in two regions of the world. Among the numerous examples that could properly document this trend, the theater stands at the fore.
    I'm writing this blog at the end of our trip. I've seen so many pieces of German theater that I can say without a doubt that no German play can be translated into another language and still retain the  same emotion. For instance, I saw one play entitled "Murmel" in which the actors only repeated one word, "murmel." If this play were to be translated into English, the translator would need to make a very important--and potentially--damaging decision, for in German "murmel" has two meanings. On one hand, "murmel" means mumble. On the other it means marble. If this piece were performed in English, the director would have to choose one translation or the other, but regardless of the choice, some aspect of the play would be lost.
     This is the essence and beauty of a language that can only be imitated by others. It's also a reassurance that no language is uneccessary or purposeless. Language always has a meaning for those who speak it. And that's why the "impractical" and "harsh" German language has meaning for me.

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