Monday, April 07, 2008

Opa's Offer

This is my dad, known to his grandchildren as "Opa," shown here with ten of his eleven grandchildren (TJ made his appearance about 8 months later). The photo was taken in May, 2004 at the memorial service we'd just had for Mom. That's her -- or a watercolor painting of her, anyway -- watching over the group, true to her matriarchal spirit.
My dad is big on education, big on culture and big on language. He believes strongly that one of the best ways to be a true citizen of the world is to travel, to immerse oneself in a new culture (or many of them), and to learn a new language while immersed in a new culture.

Today my dad put his beliefs "on paper" in the form of an offer to his grandchildren. True to his German-ness, he drew up a document which spelled out an offer for each of his grandchildren. His goal is to encourage them to learn a foreign language in-depth.

Oh, how I wish I could have had the opportunity -- and the courage -- to do something like this when I was a young adult! Here's what Opa offered:

  1. Purpose: to help you prepare for life in a world in which success will depend on thorough knowledge of a language besides English. Near-fluency in a foreign language is the primary aim; understanding the other culture will follow as a result.
  2. Format: The study time need not be academic, but must be well-planned and organized. It must include formal study of the language, either before or during the stay. Employment in an extended job toward leaning a skill also counts, but leisure traveling in foreign countries will not qualify for help.
  3. Length: The time abroad should be planned to be six months or more.
  4. Independence: Your stay may start out in an English-speaking group or entity, but you must know language and culture well enough after three months to be on your own from then on.
  5. Advance: if you study the language before traveling there, so that you are able to start out studying or working there without an interpreter, I will pay you an advance of $ 1,250 when you leave. If you leave "cold", i.e. without knowledge of the language, I'll pay you the $ 1,250 after being there three months, provided you learn the language there.
  6. Payments: I'll pay you $ 1,250 after six months, and an additional $ 2,500 after one year abroad.
  7. Limit: the first six-month tour may be repeated in another country and another language, but I have to set a limit per person to $ 5,000 total..
  8. Timing: the studies may occur any time between Junior year in high school and a PhD degree.
  9. Scholarships: This is in addition to any scholarships you may be getting for study abroad.
I can't promise to keep track of timing, so please remind me when you have met any milestones of these "rules". I must reserve the right to be the only judge in ambiguous cases, though.
Viel Gl├╝ck, bonne chance, kharoshi shastye, buena suerte, mazel tov, etc, etc!
Love –

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G in Berlin said...

What a wonderful offer. What a great opa.

Diane Mandy said...

Wow what a proposal! Opa sounds like a smart man. Does he adopt?

Maria said...

That's utterly amazing! Opa just reinforced my belief that you all have a wonderful family! Oh, and I'm with Diane. Any chance he adopts?

Lynda said...

That is brilliant! It is hard to become 'nearly fluent' in a second language... lots of work, but the rewards are great and I have never been sorry that I put the effort in. Still love seeing the look on people's faces when I open my mouth and change languages. Grand Plan...might look into something like that with my kidlets.

Princess Cat's Pajamas said...

What a wonderful gift to his grandchildren!

blackcrag said...

That is an incredible offer! Could you adopt me please?

anno said...

Wow, that's a fantastic offer! I'm looking forward to hearing about everyone's adventures!

Goofball said...

Wow! This is soooo good! We all need an opa like that, who sets formal goals and requirements but teaches us the importance to learn.

Hands up for your opa.
Sehr sehr gut.

Anonymous said...

I agree: wow! 'Your' Opa is the best. Then, grandchildren, just do it! At least, I would've have done it...

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