1.12.2008

Back to school

Max and I survived our weeklong intensive language training. Normally, the program runs two weeks, but we (actually just Max) couldn’t make time in our schedule for the entire program.

For this, I am grateful. While being helpful, I found the training both tedious and exhausting.

During the week, I received one-on-one tutoring. My teacher tried to make the day go by more quickly and employed a variety of methods to help me understand various concepts of German grammar. I felt like a kid again--learning language through games and activities much like the ones kindergarten students participate in on a regular basis. I made simple conversation, talked through puppets, played card games, and completed simple worksheets all using basic German. After each activity, my instructor, Frau Vetter, would signal the end of an exercise by saying, “Shön. Das ist das.”

With maybe 150 words in my vocabulary and limited knowledge of the present tense, I certainly didn’t understand everything.

“Bitte, Frau Vetter.” I would say sheepishly. “Was ist ‘überzeugen’?”

Mrs. Vetter would try to explain using other words in German that, surprisingly, were not part of my lexicon. She even attempted jumping around and pantomiming, but I was never good at charades. So even though the program was suppose to be conducted in entirely German, occasionally, when I got that deer-in-headlight look or when my eyes glassed over as if I was about to have a seizure, my teacher would have mercy on me and explain something in English. Hearing my native tongue was like eating an ice cream cone in August--and just as brief a respite.

Because of a fondness for compounding words on words, saying numbers may have been the trickiest skills to master. Take 1,999, for example, and try saying it in German.

Eintausandneunhundertneunundneunzig

(Yeah, that’s what I said.)

Saying numbers, notwithstanding, I found the scheduling of the daily program the most amusing. Classes started promptly at 9 a.m. At 10:50 a.m., students and teachers took their morning kaffeepause or “coffee break.” This lasted 20 minutes and always included coffee, black tea, and exactly 6 cookies. Classes broke at 12:30 for an hour-long lunch. Then, at 3pm, we enjoyed another 20-minute kaffeepause with 6 more cookies. Germans take their kaffeepauses very seriously. When I suggested we not take one in favor of leaving early, the teacher looked at me as if I had told her I hated bratwurst (which, btw, I do).

Still, I really enjoyed my instructor, the oldest in the academy and also the liveliest. Poor Max, on the other hand, was assigned an instructor who refused to ever speak English (even during the kaffeepause) and, more importantly, never changed clothes the entire week, including his undershirt. You can bet Max was running for the door when classes ended at 4:45pm and I was right behind him!!

12 comments:

patches said...

Learning a foreign language is humbling. I took Spanish in HS. But I can't seem to communicate in Spanish unless I'm on my second margarita. Guess I'm a little uptight.

running42k said...

Why didn't you write this post in German?

evercurious said...

Amazingly you make something so tedious still seem humorous. America misses you, but fortunately we still get to be entertained by your exploits! Viva La Mandy! (That's not German, I thought you might need a break from all things German.)

kenju said...

I KNOW that guy who didn't change clothes. He taught me history in high school!!

LZ Blogger said...

Diane ~ I think I'd just stick with writing the numbers 1 9 9 9! ~ But I think it is great that you are learning German. The neighbors across the street from us (for about three years) were from Germany and just here on temporary assignment. They've gone back to Germany for a couple of years now, but he comes back on business a couple of times a year. ~ jb///

Tonya Allison said...

Dear Mrs. Hausfrau, with a haus like that, I say flaunt it! That place is gorgeous...can I move in and be a hausfrau too?? Charlie looks adorable and so well adjusted (i.e. spoiled). I'm so glad all is well and I know you both will be fluent soon. Are you gonna teach Charlie how to bark in German too? I miss you all!! P.S. Work is crazy right now with year-end but I should be online in the am soon.
P.S.S. your blogs are hilarious!
Love you!!

Zhaan said...

I admire you. Classes on anything to me is tedious. I'm just not a sit and listen type. Much less a language. I have no doubt you will pick it up. You are just too fun and social to not learn the language. :)

June said...

And I thought running was hard! hee hee!

I could never master another language. I've tried.

hang in there!! and dont eat too many of those cookies! ;)

brandy said...

Sometimes when I'm teaching grammar to kids I will remember what it's like to struggle with language. It definitely takes me back to my younger self. But a new language? That must be very humbling. Congrats on sticking to it for the whole week! And even more congrats to Max for sticking to it with HIS instructor! Yikes!

AmyD said...

UGH. This sounds horrific...if I were forced to move to a new country, this story would be the exact reason why I would pitch a fit before finally conceding. ;o)

Good luck, lady!

bleeding espresso said...

I took German in college (no English allowed in class!) so I do understand a bit of where you're coming from.

Even though I live in Italy, I never took a formal Italian class, though, interestingly enough. Sink or swim seems to have worked just fine ;)

Best of luck!

Just a trumpet player said...

I hear ya !

I had to take 4 semesters of German in college; on my first quiz, feeling rather confident, I proceeded to translate in german: "Sir, your have a beautiful hat!" Somehow (?!) the words came out wrong and I said :
"Sir, you are a awfull pig!"

Although, in the end, I managed to score brownies point by pronouncing, correctly, "Bierbrauer Bauer braut braunes Bier"

Have you tried drinking a few martinis before your lessons ? I swear it helps...