Learn German. That's the unexpected message of the 2006 National Spelling Bee finals.
America's new national champion, Katharine Close, won by spellingursprache. The runner-up, Finola Hackett,
tripped up on weltschmerz. Another favorite lost on heiligenschein.
Katharine might be excused for a shade ofschadenfreude as she watched her friends falter, because behind all the
prime-time glitz and angst was a simple lesson. German and English are both Germanic languages. They share
many word origins and characteristics. That makes German a good choice for every English-speaking mensch,
whether you are a kindergartner, a student, or just one of the familie. It's übercool, mann.
have to be a
to learn a little
Once you learn
German is basically a Lego language -- just take word blocks, such asWelt and Schmerz, smash them together,
and you've got some real weltschmerz.
It may sound painful, but it can be practical. For starters, you'll finally be able to understand thoseVolkswagen ads.
And for the Doppelbonus, you could actually pronounce Fahrvergnügen.
Here's theleitmotiv: German is very American. It has worked its way into our world. While some worry loudly about
too much Spanish, German has become everyday English. We check the weather on the Doppler radar and measure the
temperature in Fahrenheit. If your neighbor chokes on his bratwurst, you give him the Heimlich.
German helps us make our way in
American pop culture. How can one
understand the deeper meaning of "Shrek"
though, there are some tricks. Soccer is
trillion. If you take your
Once, I found
myself in a tourist area of rural
Pennsylvania, and strolled by
I kept walking, because in
See how handy
German can be? In fact,
is a mobile phone. I think
they've got something there.
is a must. But German
is a plus. So let's take a cue from
national spelling champ Close and
And if you find you have celebrated a bit too much, just take some Aspirin and call me in the Morgen. Gesundheit.
professor of international relations at
Johns Hopkins University, is also dean