Not an Easy Task: Learning U.S. History as a German Student


The English Language is one of the most difficult to learn. Do you know what tops that??? Translating terms from a U.S. History book…and a lesson about the 1600’s… from German to English! NOT an easy task… as I learned after two hours of working with Lara, our German Exchange Student!

On Monday, after her U.S. History class, she sent me a text message: “Can you write an email to the teacher? Because tomorrow we have a reading quiz but he SAYS the questions. And I don’t understand him, he speaks too fast and not clearly! Maybe he prints the questions, some words make sense in a sentence”.

My first thought was, “No problem, I can help her understand the words!” I soon learned that I “thought” too soon! I should probably also mention that History is NOT my best subject. In fact, if it’s anything more than 5 years ago… it’s History to me… and I remember NOTHING!

So… we sat at the Dining Room table at 7:00p to read 9 pages.  The quiz would cover the 9 pages plus what the teacher’s been talking about in class.  One problem… she has struggled to understand his lectures. Therefore, I decided I would read the pages to her, she would take notes and I would explain as we went along. Sounds simple enough, right?

WRONG! The first sentence… “John Smith craved adventure.” Lara said, “What is crave?” She typed it into her translator. Next sentence… “In 1600, at age 20, Smith trekked across Europe…” Lara said, “What is trekked?” Again, the translator to the rescue! Other words in the very FIRST paragraph…. heroic, knighthood, inscribed, conquer. I knew I was in a for a long haul!

I started to read the sentences BEFORE saying them out loud to Lara and then explaining in every day language. THAT made a big difference! And the pace was picking up in our new journey of the English language and the 1600’s! We made it to Page 2… in about 20 minutes!

In the next section… how the English settlers came to America and started the first colony in Jamestown. I struggled with this one until I figured out that the best way to REALLY help Lara understand was to draw a picture… complete with stick people, a funny-shaped United States, little boats and pie charts. I saved it for you to see! The artwork isn’t pretty… but it sure got the point across!

Overall… we completed 9 pages in 2 hours. Whew! Today, she took the quiz. And yes… the teacher gave her the questions on paper to READ. Her text message to me after the quiz was, “The reading test was good but I did not do 2 questions because I don’t understand them! But 11 of 13 is good, I think!” My reply was, “Yes, 11 of 13 is excellent!” I would imagine there are American students who answered fewer than she did. And when she came home, she said my version of the stories and my funny artwork helped her.

Ironically, I saw proof of that tonight when the News talked about “an earthquake in Washington, DC and Virginia”. Lara pointed at the TV and said, “See, the Virginia Company, the first Colony.”

That’s right, Lara. From your book you learned “the first joint-stock company sent three ships to America and the shores of Virginia in April 1607”.

And today you learn that Virginia is STILL making news… 400 years later…. because an earthquake in Virginia is rare and a really big deal here in the U.S.!!!

About schreinerrealty

I'm a Realtor, Property Manager ad Owner of a Real Estate Brokerage, Schreiner Realty. I'm a Mother of 2, stepmother of 3, and now a Host Mother of a German Exchange Student. I am an avid volunteer in our community, involved in networking groups including Women's Council of Realtors and Women of Faith in Business. I spent 16-years in TV News as a Producer/Anchor/Reporter/Newsroom Manager and still participate in free-lance Producing Projects.

One response »

  1. Lara 🙂 This is Anna from the Orientation in Sproetze, from Lueneburg. I saw your blog and your History Book, I am in Idaho and I have exactly the same book. And I hate it. Its so hard to understand..
    I hope you had a good start in America !

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