Udo Gorsch-Nies teaches German to adults enrolled in Osher Lifelong Learning Institute classes.
The most common expression people want to learn?
"That's a really difficult question," says Gorsch-Nies. "Men would probably say, 'Ein Bier, bitte'," which means "a beer, please," but in general maybe the question is "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" "Do you speak English?"
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He volunteers to teach weekly Enjoy German classes because he says he received support from his parents, teachers, friends and colleagues all his life.
"Now, in my retirement years, it is payback time," he says. "I want to contribute my humble share to a better understanding of people with different cultural backgrounds."
He talks about the language, culture and history of Germany "to be a bridge builder between the distinctively different cultures of Germany and the USA," says Gorsch-Nies, who has lived in the U.S. since 1992 and is a naturalized citizen.
Gorsch-Nies moved to Ashland for nine years ago from Lafayette, Calif.
What's your favorite aspects about Ashland? The friendliness of Ashland's citizens, the openness of their minds, the incredible amount of skills, knowledge, wisdom, artistry and craftsmanship assembled in Ashland. The awareness of other citizens' financial and social needs, the stunning nature of the valley and the mountains surrounding us.
What gets your students' attention? I do not know exactly, maybe my love for languages, the insatiable curiosity about languages, my jokes?
How do you introduce yourself to your class? I was born and raised in Germany and I was 6 years old when World War II ended. I remember the war and the hunger years after the war and I never ever want to see war and misery again.
What are three points you want people to remember from your lectures? Life is good, lifelong learning keeps you young and German language is fun.
Tell us about your academic accomplishments: Bachelor's degrees in physics, mathematics and chemistry, and a master's degree in physics from the University of Bonn, Germany.
Tell us some of your career highlights: Programming physicist, then systems programmer at CERN, the European Nuclear Research Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland; systems analyst-in-charge of Control Data Corp. in Berlin, Germany; systems analyst, operations manager at the Research Computer Center, Group Leader of Computer Systems Validation (CSV) of Schering AG in Berlin, Germany; head of CSV at Berlex Laboratories in New Jersey, then at Berlex Biosciences in California.
What do you like to do in Ashland during your time off? Gardening, cross-country skiing, my French-speaking group, my German-speaking American group and my German-speaking German group.
I also like building a setup for my computer-controlled digital model trains, dining and wining, enjoying time with friends, First Fridays, walking in Lithia Park and the Oredson-Todd Woods trail, and the Ashland parades on July 4, Halloween and the Festival of Light.
Most of all, I like spending time with the love of my life, my wife, Sabina Nies.
What do you still have on your to-do list? Traveling round the world once more and dancing with my wife on our golden anniversary.
How can we learn more about you? Come to my class, or, in case you don't speak German, let's have a coffee or beer together, or maybe two?