Friday, April 28, 2017

Preparing for the telc B2 Deutsch als Fremdsprache test: describing a book

I've been preparing for about two months to take the telc test for the B2 level of German as a Foreign Language. While that sounds like a long time to study, keep in mind that it involved much procrastinating, gnashing of teeth, and metaphorically lying on my side in vocabulary defeat. The actual time spent studying is thereby diminished.

This is a little ditty that I wrote. On the telc test, one must describe something. I prepared a book description in case that came up. My friends kindly edited it for me because I still make errors and it drives me up the wall. Any remaining errors are my own.


Ich werde das Buch “The Math Myth” von Andrew Hacker beschreiben. In diesem Buch geht es um das Thema Mathematik im Amerikanischen Bildungssytem. Der Autor meint, dass nicht alle Schueler und Studenten in Amerika fortgeschrittene Mathematik brauchen.

Er fragt sich z. B., warum zukuenftige Englisch Lehrer Trigonometrie lernen sollen. Sie wuerden sie nicht unterrichten. Es faellt vielen Amerikanische Studenten schwer, die obligatorischen Mathematikkurse an der Uni zu bestehen. Deshalb fallen viele von ihnen im ersten Jahr an der Uni durch.

Statt unnoetige Mathematik zu lernen, schlaegt Herr Hacker vor, dass Studenten passende Mathematik lernen. Manchmal ist solche Mathematik nur Arithmetik und Logik. 

Meiner Meinung nach ist diese Idee perfekt. Ich hasse Mathematik und es ist mir schwer gefallen, gute Noten in diesen Kursen zu bekommen. Ausser in diesen Kursen bin ich eine gute Studentin.
Als [insert name of my profession here] benutze ich wenig Mathematik. Haette ich Buchfuehrung gelernt, haette das genuegt.


If you can understand German and/or just stuck this in Google Translate and want to read my...rant (?) about math:

When I describe this book, most of the people to whom I describe it become incensed and argue with me about its validity. Part of the reason for that stems from my lack of ability/desire to debate and effectively present this material to people who are touchy about the subject because they love math. The other part is that I'm mostly surrounded with scientists, engineers, computer scientists, linguists who are heavily involved with computers, etc. This pitiful English major won't find a common outlook in this group because math is their lifeblood. For me, it's painful and useless Kryptonite.

I very much agree with the author of this book and I think that the US's practice of forcing advanced mathematics on most, if not all, students is keeping those who have interests/abilities/and future studies that have nothing to do with math from reaching their full potential. Oh, and please don't just say that all it takes is the right teacher. I had an amazing teacher in high school for the two of three years of math that I took. I very much liked her and appreciated the effort she put into teaching and the enthusiasm that she showed. Despite that, I only received middling grades (in my other classes, I earned As) and instantly forgot everything after the test. My brain is not a math brain and frankly, there is no good reason for it to be as such anyway. I've had a good life and decent career without math.

Don't even give me the line that learning math teaches one how to think critically, either. I am good at problem solving and I am absolutely horrible with/absolutely hate/and find no use in my own life for math. I learned problem solving through other means, many of which include much introspection. For problem solving that deals with other people (whether they help solve the problem or they unfortunately contribute to it), I've turned to my studies in Sociology, Psychology, and Management. Figuring out how a bunch of numbers fits together doesn't prepare a person to work through an issue with a living, breathing person, for example. For many problems, using a style of reasoning gained from math study is just too cold and calculating.


  1. Math-Haters of the World, Unite! I'm with you. I live very happily without more than basic math. As an English & German teacher I needed to be comfortable with percentages for figuring grades, and I was glad I'd learned about bell curves for looking at grade statistics. But the tears I shed in high school over factoring quadratic equations... (Dad: "It's just not that hard!" Me: It's not hard for YOU!") I still don't know what they are good for beyond emotional breakdowns.

    I'm glad there are people in the world who are good at math - and that I'm married to one of them! I take care of the writing (Christmas letters, condolence cards, emails to family...), and he takes care of the math. :-)

  2. Yay! I don't feel so lonely now.

    I really need to get myself this shirt: "I'm an English major. YOU do the math!" :)

    My brain just cannot think in numbers. Everything is so visual with me and in HD normally. When I think of numbers of math, it's a sterile, cold white background with black numbers bouncing all over the place. There's no way to assign meaning to them.