The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shameless Student

I'm amazed at how much German I don't know. The last time I lived here my exposure to the German language was however much I wanted it to be. Being here with the U.S. military meant that we had all of our daily necessities available on base. Doctors, dentists, the grocery store, the movie theater, the kids' school, the post office, the veterinarian....all in English. Ramstein Air Base was (I don't know if it still is) the largest American community outside of the United States. So our daily lives still centered around our native language. That's not to say that I didn't learn any German. I could read a menu in German, shop in German stores, travel, greet my neighbors, talk about the weather and do pretty much whatever else I needed to on the local economy. I worked as a tour guide for the USO for a long time which involved shepparding groups of Americans, by train or bus, to other places around Germany as well as a few places outside the country. I had to interact with train conductors, bus drivers, boat captains, ticket offices, restaurant owners and local tour guides as well as read signs, schedules and announcements.Very rarely did I have to resort to using English in a given situation. I always managed with my basic German. My grammar wasn't always correct but they could understand me and I could understand them. I learned what I needed to know.

What I did not learn was how to have an everyday conversation completely (and grammatically correct) in German. The last two months have really shown me what I can't do. I understand almost all of what I hear but I have a difficult time producing the language in a conversational setting (Nik assures me that this is perfectly normal).

So I started a 5 week German language class the day before Halloween. We have 3 days of class left, Mon, Tues and Wed of this week. The class is 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. It's been a very interesting experience. For one thing, we are a very diverse group. Eleven students from eleven different countries. Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, Palestine, Peru, South Korea, Morocco, Brazil, China, Turkey and me. To top off our international stew our instructor is from Greece! Three of the students are teenagers. I'm the oldest in the class and the other seven people are all in their 20s or 30s. Most everyone, like me, had at least some German when we started. I'm glad I started with the first level class. Nothing that we have been taught has been totally new for me and it has been a very good refresher course in what I already know. There have also been things that I kind of knew but wasn't really sure about. This class has really helped to clarify some things that I was just sort of fuzzy on. Of course, it has really helped to come home to a native speaker and to a language teacher, both of whom are fluent in both languages. I don't think I can speak any better now than I could 5 weeks ago but my foundation in the language has been reinforced and I have a clearer understanding of where I need to go from here. The next class starts in January but I won't be here so I'll have to wait to continue my German classes.

I start training to be an English Language teacher on the 19th of January. The course is offerred at the Berlin School of English and is certified by Cambridge University (London). It's a pretty intensive program. Eight hours of instruction and teaching practice every day with about four hours of homework and lesson preparation each evening for 4 weeks. The CELTA program is recognised worldwide as one of the best (CELTA stands for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) so I'll be able to use the training wherever I go. Here, once I finally get Scotland and need parttime work while I go to school and even back in the U.S. The course is kind of pricey but it's an all around good investment for the present and the future. And I'm really looking forward to the experience. I think I just like school.

1 comment:

Steven said...

Hey Connie,
If you're anything like your daughter (and why wouldn't you be?), I'm sure you're a quick learner. If you ever need any supplementary things about anything grammar-related in German, let me know. I have lots of extra practice things. As for the CELTA training, I have lots of ESL/EFL stuff from my new job too. I'm sure you'll do great. Gruesse aus der Wueste!