I must say: I’m very relieved September is over 😅 Now I just have to make it through October, and then my written exams will be over and I will hopefully be qualified enough to start teaching!!!
At least theoretically. Even if I pass, I plan on staying at university at least another year so I can also get my master’s degree in math. But just knowing that I could go into practical teacher training if I wanted to sounds really appealing 😁
Anyway, I’m sure you’re all tired of me whining about exams, so let’s get into the books I read this month! To be honest, though, there aren’t very many of them, and most of them were textbooks I read in order to do some frantic last minute-cramming. (Two of them ended up being relevant, so I guess it was a success?)
I actually only read one book for fun this month – Emily Henry’s Beach Read. Which I adored! There’s nothing like cutesy summer romances about writers to pull you from “I’m going to fail anyway so why do I even bother”-depression. This book really fell into my hands at exactly the right time!
Anyway, before I start rambling even more, let’s get into some details! Feel free to skip ahead to the books that interest you! I know reading about all these university textbooks might not be everyone’s cup of tea 😉
Introducing Second Language Acquisition by Muriel Saville-Troike
Language acquisition is one of the eight major topics covered in the linguistics exam, so I decided it would probably be a good idea to read this and complete that portion of the required reading list. If language acquisition is a topic that interests you, though, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one as a good starting point. Yes, it gives a pretty decent overview of major linguistic, psychological, and sociocultural theories that were prevalent in the 20th century and had a huge influence on research done today, but I also think it gives a very one-sided picture that lacks empirical evidence.
To put it briefly, Muriel Saville-Troike is one of the most extreme nativists I have ever come across. For those of you not familiar with this topic: Nativists believe that humans have an innate capacity for language learning. Building on Noam Chomsky’s ideas, they think that humans are born with a so-called “universal grammar” system in their minds: we only need language input to realize which grammatical rules apply to our specific language, but basically, we already know everything except the actual words of a language the minute we start to exist.
Of course, Muriel Saville-Troike can believe what she wants to. I personally think that emergentist approaches – these are based on the premise that we learn languages by using general learning mechanisms by generalizing over the input we get in social interaction – make a lot more sense, but it’s good to have healthy discussions in academia. However, for someone claiming to provide an overview of language learning theories, I find it highly suspicious that Saville-Troike pretty much only mentions emergentist theories in one random sentence and says again and again that children could not possibly learn a language only from the input they get. You can’t make a claim like that and completely disregard major theories that offer counterarguments your opinion!
So yeah – if you want to learn about language acquisition and need a good book to start with, I recommend reading Michael Tomasello’s Constructing A Language instead…
Beach Read by Emily Henry (5/5 Stars)
I already mentioned that I absolutely adored this book! And it may have been the perfect study-distraction read, but I think I would have loved it just as much had I read it at any other time in my life. It was just so cute and had so many romance tropes that I adore!
Anyway, Beach Read follows January, a bestselling romance writer currently suffering from severe writer’s block. Her agent is getting more and more anxious about the whereabouts of January’s next manuscript, and since January’s funds are getting scarily low, she decides to knuckle down and start writing – in her deceased dad’s lake house that she knew nothing about prior to his funeral, probably because he and his mistress had a secret sex dungeon there. At least, that’s what January’s best friend Shadi is convinced of.
Instead of a dungeon, though, January runs across Gus. Secretly alluring Gus from college, who always made fun of her writing and is now a best-selling literary fiction author. Whose book was above January’s on the New York Times Bestseller list – not that she cares, of course.
It turns out, though, that there’s nothing like strange local book clubs to rekindle old bonds, and soon January and Gus find themselves making a deal: they will swap genres and whoever gets published first will be honored by having the other person on their publicity team…
Yes, this book is smutty. It is cute. Heartwarming. It has dark subplots about cults, cheating, child abuse, and unfaithful parents. And it is about writers! So obviously, it checked all the boxes for me 😊
Der Englische Roman des 19. Jahrhunderts by Vera Nünning
The title of this translates to The 19th Century English Novel, and that pretty much sums up perfectly what it is about. It gives a chronological overview of the Regency and Victorian Periods, focusing on prevalent themes and types of novels, how they were influenced by what was going on historically, and major authors and works. I had started reading this before, but due to how busy I was, I didn’t manage to finish it until a week before my literature exam.
And boy, did that stress me out. There were so many novels in here that it said were “super important”, ones that I’d never even heard of. I thought I’d been reading a ton of classics these past few years, but apparently, I was wrong… I pretty much had a complete mental breakdown when I realized there were topics like “gorillas in Victorian children’s fiction” that had actually come up in previous exams, which were based on books mentioned in here.
Suffice it to say – this gives a VERY thorough overview of fiction in that period. I’d definitely recommend it to fellow English literature students who also speak German, but I do not recommend reading it right before your exams 😉 Read it at least a year before you take them so you don’t panic when you see all the new information it has to offer!
I survived, though – I ended up choosing the Shakespeare topic and writing a 17-page analysis of a scene from King Lear, so I guess it’s okay that I didn’t know much about the 19th century literary portrayal of gorillas…
Englische Pragmatik by Wolfgang Bublitz
Pragmatics is another topic covered in the linguistics exam, which is why I decided to read this to freshen-up my memory. And I think it gives a great overview! It actually went into a lot more depth than I was expecting and included lots of examples, which made it quite easy to read considering it was a textbook. Memorizing it was a different matter, but I doubt you’re going to want to do that if you’re not being tested on its contents…
Anyway, pragmatics is all about language in use, about how communication works, how a listener might understand something the speaker intended for them to understand, even though they never explicitly said it. For example, look at the following conversation:
A: Are you coming to the party tonight?
B: I have an exam tomorrow, remember?
B never said that they weren’t coming, but in all likelihood, that’s what A will think B meant. If any of this interests you – this book provides an overview of the most important theories that try to explain such phenomena from a linguistic standpoint. Bublitz also wrote tons of books about this subject in English, so those might be a good starting point.
Englische Textlinguistik by Christoph Schubert
This book even has the word “linguistics” in its title (or the German translation, anyway), so I guess it’s a no-brainer that I also read this for the linguistics exam. There’s nothing like leaving the most important books till the last possible moment 😉
Like the title says, this book focuses on text linguistics: what a text is, how texts and different types of texts are organized, how online communication is expanding the range and interconnectedness of texts (there was a ton of blogging terminology in that section and I honestly felt so smart because I understood it *grins*), and how communication is organized.
Overall – this is one of those rather dry textbooks that drops a bunch of names every two sentences, but it does provide an extensive overview. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed reading it, but the section on style analysis ended up being very exam relevant, so I have to say that I’m very glad I did!
So yeah – that’s it for this month! I hope this wrap-up ended up being somewhat interesting, even if I didn’t really get to reading a lot for fun. I’m totally going to make up for that at the end of October, though – I am SOOO EXCITED to finally have the time to read all the books that have been piling up on my nightstand. I’ve been itching to grab The Dragon Republic and The Empire of Gold for months, but they’re so fat that I was scared they’d distract me from exams… 🙈 But the wait is almost over!! 🤗
Also, just to give you a heads up: I’m not completely sure if I will manage to post anything during the next two weeks. I kind of neglected math while I was studying for English, so my study plans look very crazy.
I do plan on making up for it later, though! I still owe you guys a Q&A post that I promised to do in September (oops), and I’m very behind on tags, so I thought I might do a special “tag week” or something, so that I can get to all of your amazing questions! Plus, I’m very much looking forward to checking out all the blogosphere content I’ve been missing out on 🤗