Why did you choose Fordham University?

Sarah Fetterhof

© Sarah Fetterhof Ms. Fetterhof, tell us a bit about your background: where, when and why did you learn German?

I studied German at Abington Heights High School in Clarks Summit, Pennylvania. I've always been interested in languages, and German struck me as something very special and unique. My high school also offered Russian, but since I have German ancestry, I figured German was the right choice.

Where, when and why did you decide to become a German teacher?

I majored in German in college (at Fordham University) because I loved it, but I had no idea what to do with it. For a long time I answered all questions about my future with “everything, just not teachers”! However, I had started to give tutoring and it was really a nice feeling to help my fellow students understand the subject that was so important to me. That experience has led to the idea that teaching might not be so bad after all, and having a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship and teaching introductory postgraduate courses reinforced that suspicion.

What is the biggest challenge in German lessons? What is particularly worthwhile about it?

There are two major challenges in teaching German. From an administrative point of view, it is difficult to convince the budget committee that teaching German is a worthwhile investment and to convey how important it is in today's international economic relations. American high schools have a much stronger emphasis on math and science, where they see a more direct link to students' financial success. The biggest challenge in class is getting students to understand the cases.

Is there such a thing as the typical German learner?

Many students chose German because they are interested in history or because - like me - they have German ancestors. At our school, many students know about our great GAPP exchange program and make friends with German students when they are here for three weeks: This in turn encourages them to learn German. This also contributes to the fact that many younger siblings register for German lessons, so that we often have a real “family legacy”!

Where did you get support and guidance as a relatively inexperienced German teacher or where do you get it?

There are an enormous number of great resources from which a relatively inexperienced German teacher can get instructions. The Goethe-Institut provides us with excellent offline support through workshops such as the teachers' day, which takes place every year in Boston, or the junior teacher seminar that I recently attended in San Francisco. Online I often use Step into German, Deutsche Welle and the AATG mailing list to get ideas and materials for class. And of course I have to lead my mentor and my shining role model for German lessons, Joan Campbell, into the field. I am now fortunate to work at the same school as her, but even before I came to Lincoln Sudbury, she supported me personally and in class.

What prospects does German as a foreign language have in the USA?

In my opinion, German has good prospects as a foreign language in the USA. The language is even more relevant today than it was when I was in high school 15 years ago. The country has drawn attention to itself on an economic and political level, soccer is becoming more and more popular in the USA, Germany has been in the media a lot with its recent victories in this field, and German film stars and musicians have found themselves on their own here in the USA Faust made a name. Germany has a bigger presence here than ever and I think the trend will only continue. I believe these things will help promote and maintain German as a foreign language in the USA.

The questions were asked by Christoph Veldhues and Olga Liamkina.


Sarah Fetterhof
teaches German at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut USA
March 2015

Do you have any questions about this article? Write to our country editor!
[email protected]