Thursday, June 21, 2012

School's Out for Summer!

       Since February, I have been enrolled in a 4 day a week intensive German class.  Since I had a few years of German in high school and a few years in college (although they were long ago) I was placed in level B 2/1, which isn't absolute beginner but isn't exactly advanced.  Why they use this combination of letters, numbers, and fractions to denote the class level, I have no idea. 
       I took the class at the Volkshochschule, which is the nearest thing the Germans have to a community college.  The class tuition itself was a Christmas gift from my parents.  The class met every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4:15 pm to 7:30 pm and was fun but incredibly draining.
       Truth be told, I don't think I really got much out of it.  Certainly not considering how much time it took.  The class isn't really geared toward people like me who have had some college level German and who have been in the country a few months and could (if wanted) comfortably live in an English speaking bubble.  The class really more geared toward people who have been in Germany for several years, function and work in the German speaking world daily, and who have been picking up German from a number of sources.  Many of them are married to Germans or have children enrolled in German schools.  While I would have preferred a standard text book with vocabulary lists and grammar exercises I could go over at home, the actual text book we used mostly featured pictures that were designed to stimulate conversion with classmates and the instructor.  It's not really a book you could learn at home from.
       We had to beg the instructor for a few basic grammar charts and rules on a sheet of paper.  We never had a vocabulary list, and we never really had any homework that took more than 10 minutes to complete.  I don't feel like I got much out of it, truth be told - but maybe I got more out of it than I think.
       Yesterday night was our last class, and we all brought food from our home countries and had a party.  I brought home baked chocolate chip cookies and homemade orange cream bars, which I thought was above and beyond of me.  But I was WAY way way off.  The woman from Colombia brought a beautiful punch bowl full of sangria she spent all day making.  A young man from the Middle East brought bell peppers stuffed with meat and rice - I don't even know how he did that while keeping the peppers intact.  The two women from China and the Philippines brought fried rice, tofu, Chinese vegetables, and homemade spring rolls.  The Nigerian woman brought chicken and a bundt cake.  An older man from the Mediterranean region brought an entire feast of felafel, hummus, salad, taziki, the list goes on and on.  Somebody put on a CD, and everybody danced and ate and chatted and had a great time.
       Much to my surprise, I found myself very sad that the class was finished.  It was such an interesting way to meet people from all over the world - people I never would have met any other way.  Sure, there were some assholes in the class - there always are.  But most of the people were just so sweet.  There were two Africans in the class, although they were form different countries and don't share a mother tongue.  One is a mid-30's mother of three and the other a teenage boy here in Germany by himself to play soccer for the local team, the rest of his family being refugees in Scandinavia.  Well, it didn't take long before the mid-30's mother of three had adopted the young soccer player as well.  She braided his hair, had him over for meals, fussed at him when he didn't wear a thick enough jacket - and he always insisted on helping her carry her bags to her car.  The Chinese woman always came early so that she could help the teenage girl (also a refugee) with her math homework before class.  There was the very sweet German teacher herself, who said that we all have her email address and if we ever need help preparing a job application to send it to her to double check first, she would be happy to look it over if we wanted her to.
       The class was, overall, an incredibly positive experience, and I think I'll take the same level again in the fall.  I'll take a different instructor who uses a different text book, but it'll be good to review the material again.  A few of the other young women in the class and I exchanged phone numbers.  The Colombian woman and I plan to meet for tea sometime soon, and stumble through it in our lousy German.  This makes me very happy, as she when she sees me, she comes up and kisses me on both cheeks.  I always wanted a friend who kisses me on both cheeks.

1 comment:

  1. What is it about language classes that they bring together such interesting casts of characters? Your description of the dinner party is just lovely ( an since I was already hungry, now I am starving).