German Professor Wins 2019 Checkpoint Charlie Foundation Award

Professor of German Thomas Lovik, who recently retired from MSU's Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages, is the 2019 recipient of the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation Post-Secondary Teacher Award. He was presented with this award on November 23 in Washington, D.C., at the Annual Conference of the American Association of Teachers of German. 

The Checkpoint Charlie Foundation Post-Secondary Award is given to professors of higher education with an outstanding background as a German professor. The award allows the recipient to travel to Berlin in the upcoming summer for a two-week German seminar. 

“The Germans do an excellent job of bringing people into the country and giving them insight into a variety of aspects of German culture, society, and politics,” Lovik said. 

I really am passionate about everybody learning a second language because it opens our eyes towards different ways of seeing the world and that’s really important because the world has gotten so much smaller in my lifetime.

The award will give Lovik the opportunity to not only go back to Germany but to also experience the fast-changing culture of Berlin, and it will give him insight into the political and educational system of Germany as well as the language itself.

Lovik first traveled to Germany as an undergraduate student. He then lived there for two years after graduation. These experiences truly solidified his interest in learning as much as he could about the language and culture of Germany. 

Lovik also traveled to Germany as a professor and a lead faculty member on study abroad. He is particularly interested in how the German language is learned, used, and how it is taught. 

“I grew up in an era where language was taught in a rather mechanical fashion, without a lot of emphasis on meaning," Lovik said. "Over the years, I have seen that change dramatically not to mention the fact that it was language only without this matter of culture, whereas nowadays language and culture are so intertwined.”

Learning a language is a life long experience; you never stop.

Through his experiences as a student of the German language, teaching English to native German speakers, and teaching German at MSU, Lovik sees the importance in how a language is taught as it is such a crucial part to how people perceive the language and culture. By being trained in the history of the language, Lovik is able to take away the daunting perceived notion of the difficulties of learning German; he is able to show how fascinating it is to learn the language and how beneficial it is to know the language.

“I really am passionate about everybody learning a second language because it opens our eyes towards different ways of seeing the world and that’s really important because the world has gotten so much smaller in my lifetime,” Lovik said. “Learning a language is a lifelong experience; you never stop."

Lovik worked at MSU for 32 years before retiring earlier this year in May. While enjoying retirement, he currently is working with the Michigan World Languages Association Language Advocacy Project.