Week Four in Amman

I have learned something quite interesting in the past few days. Only 30% of Jordan’s population is actually originally Jordanian. Everyone else is a smorgasbord of varying Middle Eastern identities and familial roots. For instance, if you ask a taxi driver if he is Jordanian, he smiles and says yes. Then you ask him: “Jordanian Jordanian?” It’s likely he isn’t. Then he’ll specify and say that his a’asl (lineage/descendance) is from Palestine or Syria or etc. It’s pretty awesome that all these people can live together in one country. America should take notes.

Week Three in Amman

This week we started to listen and watch videos in Arabic. I was placed in a level that seems to be more challenging than I had wished. I just keep reminding myself that it’s only a challenge and that’s the most effective way to learn this language. I’ve been using quizlet a lot lately and figured out that you can actually use a ‘learn’ function which makes studying a lot easier and a lot more fun. We visited the Citadel of Amman this weekend which is really cool and beautifully shows the syncretic qualities of a city such as Amman– an important cultural joint in every empire starting with Alexander and still true today with the Hashemite family.

Week Two in Amman

This second week included some more nuanced understanding of Jordanian society as well as a better grip on what the semester of classes was going to be like. For instance, I became best friends with the falafel guys down the street. I’ve been going every day! On top of that, we started pouring through Arabic in my classes (I have four hours of class per day and almost 2-3 hours of homework each night). My friends and I have been exploring some of the malls in the surrounding area. Trust me when I say they’re not like the malls in America. That’s for sure.

Week One in Amman

Hey there! This is Drew signing on after my first week in Amman, Jordan. This week we took to a lot of sightseeing including trekking up the steep hill of Ajloun Castle. It was an incredible experience because we were able to see for miles and on top of the castle (at its highest point) there were signs orienting visitors to main attractions (such as Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and Aqaba– the beach side city).

Starting Classes–Verbs Verbs and More Verbs!

After a bit of time to settle in and brush up on my speaking, I was eager and ready to start my intensive course. In the days leading up to the course while practicing in my daily interactions, I wished that I knew more verbs and conjugations to speak with more variety and to move my conversations forward. It seemed like this was the next step that I needed to push my language learning to the next level. When I arrived at the Polis Institute for Languages and Humanities, where I would be taking my course, I was excited to find that on the first day of class my teacher presented us with a list of verbs that was pages long. I didn’t realize it, but my course would be focusing on just what I was hoping for–verbs! Not only did this advance my ability vary my sentences by using more specific words and phrases, it also helped me understand patterns of grammar and verb conjugations. This allows me to teach myself much more easily, because I can fit new verbs into a schema of grammar that I learned at Polis.

The orange tree outside the language institute that greeted us every morning with its bounty!

Post-Program Reflections

  1. I learned a lot about the language acquisition process during my SLA experience. The two teachers that I had had very different approaches. One was more focused on building up our basic grammar skills, while the other prioritized vocabulary. Both certainly have their advantages in acquiring a new language. I engaged by doing my best to interact with as many locals as possible and observe how their daily routines and habits differed from ones in the United States. My teachers were also a valuable source for explaining cultural differences that were important to know, such as the fact that jaywalking is not at all allowed or practiced in Germany. I definitely feel like I met my goals for language learning that I set for myself. Both my grammar and vocabulary have improved, and I learned a ton about German culture. Finally, I was able to interact with fantastic people from all around the world.
  2.   I have gained valuable insights from my SLA experience. The most self-altering aspect of the trip was meeting people from all over the world and learning about them and their cultures. I met people from approximately 30 different countries, and got to know the Germans very well. Different approaches to life, such as the importance of family to the German people, the laidback, caring nature of the Argentinians, or the environmental attentiveness of the Danish are all wonderful traits that I would like to incorporate into my own life. I always thought that learning about other cultures would be valuable, but this SLA experience totally confirmed and reinforced that belief. My main recommendation to anyone who was considering applying to SLA or another language program would be to talk to as many people from as many different places as possible. Learning the local language can deepen your immersion within a culture, and widen your horizons even further. 
  3. Firstly, I plan on using my language and intercultural competences in my Notre Dame classes. I am taking Intermediate German II in the next semester, and then I plan on continuing my German education for the rest of my four years and beyond. The SLA experience grew my love for travel, language learning, and cultural immersion. I would really enjoy another opportunity to take classes in Germany, or even get an internship or a job there. I think that working in a foreign country would be a totally unique experience that could build on the skills and expertise that I accumulated during my SLA program. As I move forward personally, I believe that my SLA experience has made me a more worldly person, and increased my respect and understanding of other cultures and peoples. I have grown to love the city of Munich, and I sincerely hope that I will get to live among its wonderful people once again in the future. 

Viewpoints on America

I interviewed three different people about their attitudes toward the United States. The first was an 18 year old woman from Denmark. She told me that her overall impression of American and Americans was a positive one. She had visited New York and Houston and loved the big city atmosphere compared to her small, rural Danish island. However, she did have a negative view of Americans in thinking that we were somewhat lazy. In Denmark, she walked or biked nearly everywhere. She disliked the fact that Americans seemed to take a car or bus even to cover short distances, and that we have polluted the environment greatly with this practice. This attitude was largely based on her interactions with Americans during her visits to our country, as well as Americans like me that she had met in Europe. 

The second person that I interviewed was a 26 year old man from southern Germany. He also had a positive overall view of America and Americans. As a former member of the army, he had a lot of respect and admiration for America’s military strength. He told me that he wishes he was American so that he could have served in our army instead of the German one. However, he had a somewhat negative viewpoint on American college students. He considered all of us to be huge partiers who were more concerned about joining the best fraternity and drinking all the time than actually going to class and studying for our degrees. He was surprised at how hard we worked and how little we went out to the bars and clubs in Munich. This attitude likely was grown in him from watching American television and movies.  

The third and final person I interviewed was a 55 year old German-Turkish man. He was my professor for the first month of lessons. He enjoyed making fun of Americans, and always made jokes about us during class. But, it was all in good fun and he told me during the interview that he actually thought very highly of America and Americans. He did, however, find us to sometimes be cocky and self-absorbed. He also had a negative view on our government. He told me that Trump was disliked by the vast majority of the German population, and that the general opinion was that he was ruining relations with European nations. He especially disliked Trump’s immigration policy. He thought that the treatment of many immigrant groups was inhumane, and that Trump should be more welcoming and less cruel to our southern neighbors. This attitude was one of someone who approved of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open their own southern borders and accept a large number of immigrants, especially refugees from nearby wars or natural disasters. 


One delicious dish that is unique to Germany is Käsespätzle. Käsespätzle is essentially the German version of a mac and cheese. Not only did I order this dish from an authentic restaurant, but I also had the opportunity to prepare it with a local cook at the guesthouse I stayed in. The ingredients are pretty simple: flour, eggs, water, onions, cheese, butter, and spices. Cheese variety can vary greatly, but Emmentaler is definitely a popular choice. The basic pasta dough ingredients are mixed together. This involves a very large amount of stirring, which was the task that was given to me. While this is being done, onions are fried in a pan separately and the cheese, butter, and spices combine in a sauce. Then, an instrument called a “Spätzlehobel” is used to form the noodles. The “Spätzlehobel” resembles a grater with larger holes. The dough is pressed through it and dropped into boiling water to create small, oval shaped disks of noodle. These are scooped out after only a few minutes and mixed with the cheese sauce and grilled onions. Breadcrumbs and crispy onions may be added as a textured garnish. It is typically served in a hot pan or dish. 

A good Käsespätzle is one with the best ingredients. If the dough is not made from scratch, it will have a more packaged, unrefined taste to it. The same rule applies for the cheese sauce. A powdered or canned cheese is very much frowned upon for addition to the Käsespätzle sauce. Käsespätzle is very important to German culture. Much like the American mac and cheese, Käsespätzle is considered the ultimate comfort food. It is best enjoyed during the winter months, but is eaten year-round. It is both a main dish and a side dish. Considering the richness and carb-loaded nature of Käsespätzle, it is usually served with something light like a fresh salad. It is also eaten among the people of nearby Switzerland and Austria, especially in the Alps. Originally a dish prepared by peasants, Käsespätzle is now enjoyed by nearly everyone who calls Germany and the surrounding regions home. 

Whit Monday

An important local holiday that just took place was Whit Monday. I spoke to a worker at a local tourism center and a friendly man at a beer garden about the holiday. The tourism worker gave me a brief historical description of Whit Monday and how it is celebrated in Bavaria. I found out that Whit Monday is a national public holiday, and that it celebrates the second day of Pentecost. This used to be an entire week-long celebration, but now it only lasts a single day. The day before Whit Monday is the end of the Easter period, and is filled with religious ceremonies and services for those who practice Christianity. There are various local traditions associated with the event, many involving the fight against evil spirits who want to rob and cause destruction. Some towns also have parade events with processions of horses. 

The man I spoke to at the beer garden did not have nearly as much information about Whit Monday as the tourism worker. He told me that he wasn’t particularly religious, so he never attended any of the Whit Monday events, nor did he really know what their significance was. To him, Whit Monday was just a nice day off from work for him and a day off from school for his kids. The difference between his response and the response of the tourism worker shows that while Germany’s roots are still very much based off of religious traditions, the average layperson is not necessarily religious or a devout follower of the ceremonies. However, I received the impression that the non-religious citizens had no problem with the religious holidays, and even welcome the days off. 

German Slang

One of the most commonly used slang words in Germany is “Ciao”. While this word comes from the Italian language, I heard many native Germans use it to say good-bye. Upon speaking to a young German man and woman, I learned that it was a slightly cooler version of saying bye that was especially popular in southern Germany due to the proximity to Italy. Both of them used the word quite often, especially among their friends. The word is much less formal and easier to use than “Auf Wiedersehen”, which I have only heard a few times so far. The middle-aged individuals that I spoke with used “Ciao” much less often. They fully understood its meaning and used it occasionally, but preferred to use the more traditional German good-bye “Tschüss”. In my experience, the overall usage of these two words is about 50/50, and their meaning is essentially the same.“Ciao” is a strong representation of Germany’s diverse culture and relationship with surrounding countries. 

Another slang word that I have seen constantly is “Semmel”. This word confused me a lot during my first week or so. I was corrected when I attempted to order a roll at a local bakery with “Brötchen”, the word that I had learned in class. A salami sandwich turned out to be a “Salamisemmel” instead. Thankfully, talking to a few locals helped me to clear up the confusion. Neither age nor gender made any difference in the understanding or usage of the word, but where the individual had grown up was crucial. Two of the people I spoke to had grown up in the Munich area, and used “Semmel” 100% of the time. This seems to be typically in the entirety of Southeast Germany. The other people I spoke to had grown up in the Hannover and Berlin areas, respectfully. Both of them fully understood the word “Semmel” and used it while they were in Munich. However, they had each grown up using “Brötchen”, the word that I had learned. The woman from Berlin told me that they occasionally used the word “Schrippe” as well. No one seemed to know why Munich used a different word, but it didn’t appear to have any variance from the more traditional words used in other areas of the country. Either way, I plan on exclusively using the slang word “Semmel” for the remainder of my time here.