Freshman finds new voice through speaking German
November 21, 2016
Filed under Profiles
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Freshman Eleanor Hopper has one interesting fact that would trick most everyone in the game Two Truths and a Lie.
Among many other talents, she speaks fluent German.
“I lived (in Germany) from ages 7 to 11, mostly just because my dad’s job wasn’t working out here,” Hopper said. “My parents had gone on a vacation there before and loved it, so we decided to pack up and move to Germany.”
Though learning a new language is tough for anyone, Hopper had plenty of resources available to help her ease the transition.
“My mom hired a tutor for me, and it was pretty easy because a lot of Germans speak English as well,” Hopper said. “I learned simple phrases first, like how to get around or how to find a bathroom, but later, I just learned from my friends because most of them didn’t speak English.”
Having staff members in her school who could communicate with her also was helpful.
“All of my teachers could speak English to some degree, but it was a lot more challenging since they taught mostly in German,” Hopper said. “After teaching the whole class, (one of my teachers) would have to walk over to me and explain what she had just taught in English.”
While it takes students at Shores years to learn how to speak a foreign language well enough to communicate, the full immersion in Germany allowed Hopper to gain her language skills much more quickly.
“It took me about two months to learn how to communicate with other people comfortably, but it was at least a year until I would meet someone new and not be judged as an American right away unless I told them,” Hopper said.
In addition to learning German, it was important that her family continue to use their mother tongue to maintain their speaking skills.
“At home, we spoke mostly English so that way we wouldn’t lose it, and my mom tried to teach me English spelling and grammar that we didn’t do in school,” Hopper said. “I needed it because when I came back (to the United States), I spelled, like, every other word wrong, and I still misspell things all of the time.”
The transition back to the American culture at age 11 was much less difficult due to her visits back home over the course of the years.
“Over the summer, I came back to the States and visited family and friends, so it wasn’t too big of an adjustment,” Hopper said.
One of the difficulties that her family faces now, however, is trying to stay in practice with German now that they are back in an English-speaking country.
However, having exchange students Shores who are also fluent in German has helped her keep up with speaking skills.
“Sometimes, I speak (German) at home, but we are all starting to forget it a little,” Hopper said. “Mostly, my mom and I speak a mix of both at home. I’m really grateful that we have a lot of German students at the high school right now because it’s kind of comforting to be able to speak with them since it helps me to continue to be able to speak well.”