German and Arabic Personal Statement

Being raised in two cultures, British and Pakistani, I find the connections to culture forged by language intriguing. History, culture, tradition; language encompasses them all and this is one of the reasons language appeals to me.

German I feel has an unfortunate stereotype but on a visit to Berlin, I heard different. I began to explore the literature of the German language. I started with the satirical book by Timur Vermes, " Er ist wieder da" and found it fiendishly comedic. The absurdity in the plot kept me amused as I imagined Hitler's reactions to modern life. Not only that, it made me aware of the ease with which people can be influenced. The uniqueness of German literature with its often-dark subject matter was something unknown to me so I found it quite compelling. After reading "Die Verwandlung" and enjoying its morbid plot and unpredictability, I sought films that had the same atmosphere. Eckhart Schmidt's "Der Fan" became a favourite for its chilling portrayal of obsession. It's a twisted approach on feminism as Simone's obsession stems from the fantasy of a "prince charming". The film's exploration of what might happen when you destroy that fantasy is very thought provoking, giving caution of what can happen if love goes too far.

Feminism in history is interesting; I think it's fascinating to compare women's rights and their thoughts across different ages and cultures. A recitation of Nazik Al-Malaika's poems drew me to the Arabic language. Her poem "Who am I?" is a particular favourite of mine as she seems to describe her mind as separate to her body and a part of different aspects of nature. Her detachment from her "self" and her confusion express a search for identity, however I feel I miss nuances of the poem by reading a translation. After reading a few of her other works, I decided to look back at earlier female poets. I began to read poems by the infamous Wallada bint Al-Mustakfi and enjoyed her defiance of the traditional gender roles. I found it surprising how her verses were so direct in their address compared to Malaika's work.

A friend from Jordan showed me many of her favourite poems and I hope to be able to see the different meanings she sees as I gain more knowledge of the Arabic language. I currently study German A level independently, due to lack of teacher in my sixth form. To supplement my German study while also hearing the opinions of German youth, I read VICE DE for news and message a pen pal in Germany. I also took part in the Oxford UNIQ summer school for German, which gave me different aspects of German that I never knew I enjoyed such as reading the Codex Manesse. UNIQ has inspired me to read works of Judith Hermann and has given me confidence in my understanding of German.

Outside of school, I've self taught Japanese to JLPT N3. It's taught me to be motivated and systematic as I tackle a foreign writing system. On a month long trip to Pakistan earlier this year, I became attuned to the Arabic script while also staying organised as I continued my AS studies independently. Volunteering as a "fan translator" with goals of translating interviews and reports taught me the usefulness of my language skills.
Recently, I've also given a personal account of Islamophobia to my peers in assembly. This has given me the confidence to express my views with a large audience and have an effect on others. Earlier this year, I began a blog on which I express said views on social issues such as racism. This has taught me to think more objectively on topics important to me. These topics have particular relevance right now with the current refugee situation and German and Arabic are two incredibly key languages in this situation. I identify with some of the problems these refugees are facing, such as cultural differences and racism and would like to help tackle these problems in the future. Education through culture and especially language is the key to this.

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Author's Comments

I started this in summer 2016 so I got it done well before the deadline and it took me around 5 drafts. I actually first got help starting mine with this site, so I hope it helps others! There was so much more I wanted to say in it but yknow character limit is a bit restrictive.

I applied to University of Oxford, UCL, University of Essex, University of Warwick, and University of Durham, and received offers for all 5. I chose Oxford and UCL as firm and insurance respectively, hopefully my exams this year will go well enough to get my firm.

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