Alexander Trubowitz is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at Yale and a visiting researcher at the University of Konstanz. His work lies in the fields of comparative and international political economy and deals with distributive conflict over the design of social insurance and tax systems.
I received funding from the ESC to enroll in two intensive online German language courses through the Goethe Institut during the summer of 2021. The objective was to improve my German language skills so that I could conduct dissertation research using German-language sources.
I have lived and traveled in Western Europe, but I had not conducted fieldwork for this project nor spent significant time in a German-speaking nation. I had never previously studied German.
In addition to daily homework and independent study, each online course met daily for 1.5 hours online. I accomplished my objectives of rapidly mastering German grammar and acquiring the ability to read German texts, including news articles. Since the conclusion of the course, I have continued my German language studies and am currently spending the academic year at the University of Konstanz, Germany, thanks to the generosity of the Yale MacMillan Center and the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that it is possible to improve one’s language skills rapidly through diligent effort. I would advise other graduate students not to believe that it is too late to begin learning a new language.
I will continue to study German language at the University of Konstanz in Germany during this academic year. I will also use my language skills to conduct research for my dissertation using German-language sources. My knowledge of German (which I will continue to improve) will be a professional asset in the future because it will enable me to conduct research in German-speaking countries and make me a more desirable candidate for postdoctoral positions at universities in Germany and Austria.