Learning a language is a gift

Kate Rehwinkel, Columnist

I have always been fascinated with culture and people’s backgrounds. I loved learning about cultures in my history classes. During the 6th grade, we had to choose four electives for the whole school year. I decided to challenge myself and take a foreign language class, because I figured we would learn about the culture as well, and that was what drew me in. My middle school offered Spanish, French, German and Chinese. However, the Chinese class was only offered for a quarter of a school year and just for 6th graders, since each of our electives were only for a quarter of the year. I chose German and Chinese. I knew a little bit about Germany’s culture because my dad was stationed there when he was in the Air Force and his grandparents immigrated from Germany to America. I took German knowing the struggle I could possibly have with it, but I never thought I would end up loving it. 

When my first quarter of German was over, I immediately knew I wanted to take it the next year for the whole year and learn as much as I could. I ended up taking it throughout middle school and high school and got eight college credits for my classes in high school. 

When I got to Eastern my freshman year I knew I wanted a minor in German. I talked to the department chair, Dr. Eydt-Beebe, who also happened to be the German teacher, and she let me join her upper-level German classes as a freshman. She was so energetic and happy to talk to me that it made my decision about getting my minor simple. I took four upper-level classes, one each semester, and ended up with my minor in German at the end of my sophomore year. I also got inducted into Delta Phi Alpha, which is an international German honors society. I have been speaking German for eight years now, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself. I have learned so much about the culture from all of my German teachers, and I feel very connected to the culture. 

For those who think learning another language is unnecessary because “everyone” speaks English, if you ever go abroad to visit another country, the respectful thing to do is to speak their language. Even if you don’t know how to speak it well or fluently, it is the the attempt that counts. When I went to Germany, I was only about two years into learning German, and it was still a little broken. When I spoke to Germans in shops or restaurants, they could see how hard I was trying and were nice enough to help me. You could just tell how happy they were to see someone trying to learn the language.

Americans get annoyed too quickly at people who do not speak English while they are in the United States. Learning a language is so much more than speaking it. It is all about learning the culture and the history as well. Choosing to take German is probably one of the most rewarding decisions I have ever made, and I encourage everyone try it.

Kate Rehwinkel is a junior management major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or

[email protected].