Written by Sara, BA in Comparative Literature

Like many students, I have been trying to find a creative way to keep busy in lockdown. I’m Sara, I will soon be heading into my second year as a BA Comparative Literature student with German as my chosen language. During lockdown, I have been learning German alongside other UCL students to help improve our German language skills. I aimed not only to improve my writing skills, but also my grammar and speaking skills. Learning German like learning any other language is a challenge, but a challenge with a rewarding experience. I set up an online language learning initiative to help UCL students of all levels improve their German skills in the long-term, which continues to enhance my sense of vocation for the German language, as well as culture. Vocabulary learning can be tough but with the right resources, conversations and determination, vocabulary can help you to build a lifelong journey of German words and useful phrases.

Before isolation, I was reading the English translation of 'Berlin Alexanderplatz' by Alfred Döblin and I was really captivated by its transportational effect with internal characterisation and vivid imagery of Berlin. This book had the same effect of transporting me to the heart of lively Berlin. During isolation which was an incredibly tough time, I launched myself into the escapism of watching episodes of 'Heidi'. Although the language was fast-paced and had a slightly different dialect, I was able to understand more and more phrases and German vocabulary every day.

Learning a language also takes commitment. Luckily, I am already inclined towards reading German literature, such as the expressive and thought-provoking works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Hence, a moment of inspiration struck me. After getting through isolation, I thought to myself, I should start writing in German, as I already have the drive to write literature in my creative writing. Since then, I have found the beauty of learning German and I have started to write my own poetry in German, which is a great way to practice grammar and German vocabulary too.

Lockdown also allows moments of powerful reflection. For instance, through reading short German stories and novels, I have noticed the similarities and differences between English, Bengali (my mother tongue) and German, which have helped to foster a sense of connectivity.

Some of my favourite words are: herbeilocken, which means to entice. I learnt this word from reading the selected works of Günter Grass. Das Schicksal means Fate, which I found from reading a novel written by Goethe. I have found that reading novels in another language takes strength, patience and excitement. When you can understand the effect of literature in another language you feel truly amazed!

There are a number of ways to be brave in lockdown. Learning a language, like lockdown requires determination, courage and commitment. So, why not be brave and learn a language?

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