Like other professors, German Professor Horst Lange works hard grading and making sure students have materials, however, what makes him stand out is he creates his own text and materials.
Lange spends a lot of time working on his system for German I and II to iron out the kinks, and is currently preparing the system for a third class in the fall.
“From your point of view, it probably looks good,” Lange said. “From my point of view there are many problems. The goal with teaching is to make it ship-shape.”
It was Lange’s opinion that textbooks are often not very effective in their teaching methods, and he decided to create his own material based on what he had learned about how people learn languages.
One of Lange’s suggestions is that students take guesses as to the meanings of words and sentences they do not know.
“That’s how you learn a language as a baby,” Lange said. “By guessing.”
When he was raising his daughters, he only spoke German to his children while his wife, an American, only spoke English.
He came to notice that children are very sharp, and his first daughter would begin to understand the meaning and use of a word after hearing it only one time.
Lange recalled a moment when he was raising his first daughter where he saw her jumping up and down on a heat vent, and she explained that she was ‘praying.’
He told her that was not what praying means, and she simply said “Oh, what is praying then?”
At the time Lange and his family lived in Nevada, but since coming to the United States he has also lived in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia and Arkansas, where he has lived for four and a half years.
Lange did say, however, that his daughter is like many other teens, eager to get out of Arkansas as soon as possible.
Lange came to America after college, but his hometown is Rottweil, Germany, the oldest town in the state Baden-Württemberg.
Rottweil is a small town, which Lange said provided a good atmosphere for kids growing up.
Lange recalled playing in the woods at the edge of the town, where they could play in a stream, occasionally see animals and just have fun.
School was also good for Lange, who had a natural talent for math and became interested in philosophy around 16 years old.
When it came time to choose his career path, Lange could not decide between these subjects, both of which he liked and had good teachers in.
Lange decided he would leave his choice up to a coin flip, and the result led him to majoring in philosophy and minoring in German Literature at the University of Tübingen, where he received his M.A.
The minor soon became Lange’s passion, and he decided to become a teacher.
After coming to America, Lange attended the University of Virginia, where he received his Ph.D. in German Literature and met his wife.
With his knowledge of German literature and what he saw raising his daughter, Lange learned what techniques help people learn languages and incorporated them into his teaching style.
Lange encourages discussion from students, and said that is a way to improve his system.
“It’s a constant feedback,” Lange said.
Rather than teach with drills and exercises that he doesn’t think help, Lange introduces words and phrases before teaching the grammar, then gets back to them later on so that students can recognize the phrases and learn more easily.
“I try to introduce as much implicitly as I can to help you learn,” Lange said.
Students seem to have taken a liking to Lange’s teaching style and personality.
According to ratemyprofessors.com, Lange has an overall quality rating of 4.7 with an A- average grade from students.
This article originally appeared in the March 30, 2016 print edition of The Echo.