Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. In the past month here at EMIS I had the opportunity of experiencing how true this is. Even though my English in the beginning was not necessarily bad, I realized during the first couple of days how difficult it actually was to completely switch to another language. Jokes or idioms I was used to got lost in translation, and changing it to English always ended mournfully. Then something unexpected happened; unexpected since my personal attachment to the German language has never been great. However, abroad in Israel I felt homesick towards my native language. Speaking in German gives me a feeling of home, familiarity and comfort; a feeling I cannot get by simply talking English. It is here in Israel, that I first fully realized the importance and meaning of language.
Your mother tongue greatly influences the person you are. The sounds, words and structure shape your thinking, your accents in other languages and your ability to learn new languages. Due to the nature of the German language I have trouble pronouncing the sounds in Arabic (and very surprisingly the “th” in English), the language I am learning here. And throughout the learning process a thick and clear German accent is accompanying me, reminding me that even though I am expanding my knowledge in languages, German is and will always be my first language.
However, although the fact that you can tell my origin from my speaking was extremely bothering me in the beginning, I have come to peace terms with it. It is okay to be a German. It is okay if people know that I am German, because after all I am and I will always stay true to myself. I can speak a beautiful language that many associate with certain harshness and whose grammar is driving many determined people insane. And I am proud to do so (and I apologize to everyone who is learning for all the grammar rules). But in order to realize that I have a connection to German coming from my heart, I had to listen to and understand in foreign languages first.
Written by: Naomi Theinert
Edited by: Peter Mangi
Copy edited by: Emily Perotti