My Bucket Of Parts: German 101 course leads to epiphany

Have you ever just sat in a class and dozed off until you couldn't understand what the heck is going on, as if the teacher was speaking in tongues?

Then you realized - oops - wrong class.

I was sitting there when the professor threw up his arms and shouted, "Ach du lieber!" And the students rejoiced with the teacher, repeating the same phrase, the mysterious, "ach du lieber!"

Was this a cult? Were they speaking magic words?

I was waiting for gnomes with pointy hats to enter through a small door. I was waiting for a moldy hag to appear dressed in grim black, and I was waiting for an explanation to what "ach du lieber" meant.

Nothing appeared, and the professor continued to bounce around, shouting more words that didn't make sense. The class became uproarious and held up pitch forks screaming infidelities, torches appeared out of nowhere and they began to scream "kill the beast!"

Wait - that's from a movie isn't it?

I'm getting something confused here. "Beauty and the Beast," doesn't have "ach du lieber" in it, does it? I don't remember the French maid, which was a feather duster, and Lumiere, the candlestick, whispering that behind the curtain while they were getting kinky.

Now I remember - this wasn't "Beauty and the Beast," this was German 101.

I was right the first time when I said, "oops, wrong class." Although, I think I'll start randomly going into classes that I'm not part of, because once the lecture is over - you have the option to not do the homework.

Well, OK, that option is secure in every class - but they'll definitely get you on attendance. Too bad college doesn't have detention - I'd rather sit in the lecture halls in Teacher's College than have my grade dropped.

But I am way off the subject; I was discussing gnomes and hags, wasn't I?

"Ach du lieber."

I think I used that phrase correctly - I've taken German for quite a while now, and I am unfamiliar with that phrase. But this German class was definitely different than what I am taking now - I'm subjecting myself to grammar while these kids get to learn new vocabulary, repeat them numerous times and then do a little skit with them.

Welcome to German 101, the beginning of a long journey to learn, what people call, a "guttural" language.

Rather than dozing off while reading a textbook (we all know foreign language textbooks are like math textbooks), they don't even have to worry about purchasing a textbook. They learn new vocabulary given to them by the professor and they use that new vocabulary to build their German language skills.

They learn by repeating hand gestures and repeating the words about a kajillion times.

Lathrop Johnson, German 101 professor, said that it "cements it into their brains."

"You catch on just as fast," said German student Adam Pott, but he said the stories they tell get longer and longer after they repeat them. Sounds like gossip.

"But you remember," Aaron Nowak chimed in, defending the way the class is structured.

Either way, they don't have textbooks and that's all that matters. We all know that textbooks are merely thieves stealing from our bank accounts.

"Kill the beast."

German 101 sounds nice; too bad I tested out and skipped right to 201 instead.

"Ach du lieber!"

Write to Evan at


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