Stolen from an email my German teacher sent me.

Have you ever been in a class that seems so above your head that you look around at other people and think: how do they understand what’s going on? What are they doing? If I copy them I’ll be on track right? Then your teacher says something and you’re like…. say what now? This has been my jarring experience in German class thus far. I totally understand that in order for a class to fully learn, they need complete immersion. But I’m beginning to think this is not my learning style because I have no idea what’s going on or being said sometimes. I feel like a dunce and inept to understand German when it’s spoken too quickly or when the sentences are too long.

Everyone says I’m being too hard on myself and that I actually understand quite a lot, but I think people are too optimistic about me. Sure, most people who know me would consider me a smart person, and every once in a while I have these truly genius moments that are astounding and impressive, especially to me. But those moments don’t happen very much in Deutsch-Kurs. Although when I practice speaking and do my homework, it all starts coming together, and these last few days have been wonderful for me. I’m speaking more than ever, thinking things through and just going for it. My mistakes didn’t disappear but my confidence has reappeared.

There is a big difference of learning a language for fun, or learning a language for survival. In Germany, in some ways, you can get by without really needing a full understanding of German….. until you have to make a phone call to the dr’s office and none of the receptionists speak English and/or want to speak English and some (in my experiences) pretty much just say I don’t understand you and then hang up. It took me months to actually set up an appointment for certain things. I’ve been embarrassed, humiliated and quite often made fun of my receptionists here. They are not the nicest group….

Knowing the language of the country you’re in is important. What if I have an emergency? I can almost never understand my mail from my insurance company when it comes, and I’m constantly sitting a table unable to really take part in anything. And don’t expect all Germans to speak to you in English, forget that fallacy straightaway. Yes, many Germans speak or know German, but that doesn’t mean they want or feel comfortable enough to speak it. And you’re in their country, so the ball is really in your court. And don’t expect them to be super nice when you try to speak their language either, sure they’ll be happier than if you went with English, but at the same time, Germans are not known for being the most super friendliest people.

If you live in or are moving to a foreign country where the language is different from your mother-tongue, then buy some books, cds, dvds, you name it. Get enrolled in classes as soon as convenient. Because although I can tell you it sucks to learn a language to survive, I’d rather learn it than still having no clue what’s going on and feeling like a social pariah. And as for understanding German culture….. well that’s another post.

And in other news, the Europameisterschaft is pretty exciting, eh?

5 thoughts on “Deutsch-Kurs

  1. i totally feel you. its hard for me because i dont remember my english grammar lessons from high school, but a lot of other foreigners had to learn english grammar so this second round of grammar is not terribly confusing like it is for me. my other problem is i have to pick studying for my degree and studying for german class. i pick my degree. but yes there are those moments where you are like holy jebus i cant believe i just did that. my moment was at the munich airport and i did a survey on why i picked the particular company i flew with nd my flight experience etc. entirely in german. i was elated 🙂 my thing, i try and read the paper in german. i dont understand a lick of it, but i read it anyway. then the words start appearing more than once and they become familiar so its easier to remember when i actually learn the meaning. and as for the immersion bit, some teachers are good at recognising when they’ve lost the crowd. im ok with the teaching in german but if i have a question and if your first explanation, in german, did not make sense, please get off your high horse and explain it in english.

  2. “every once in a while I have these truly genius moments that are astounding and impressive” – I totally read this sentence hearing it how you would sound saying it 🙂

    I was only in Nicaragua for six weeks, and there were many times when I wished I knew more Spanish than I did. I never had to deal with doctors or insurance companies though, so I can only imagine what a pain that must have been. I have trouble understanding insurance when it’s in my own language, let alone a foreign one.

  3. It takes as long as it takes and you will get it eventually. I came over without a lick of German, took VHS classes for 15 months, took the intermediate proficiency test from the Goethe Institut (then called the Zentral Mittelstufe Prüfung – different name now, I think) and STILL wasn’t really comfortable speaking in unplanned circumstances until about 6-9 months after my test.

    Maybe the full-immersion class setting isn’t a good fit for you. I know several people that only started getting it after some time in private lessons or watching only German TV or reading the paper every day, etc. You have to find the system that works for you.

    I’m a singer and can pick up song lyrics pretty quickly. As a learning aid, I found some pop musicians that sang in German and that did music I like. Then I looked up the lyrics and tried to sing along while listening. That really helped me get the flow of the words and phrasing.

    You have an additional challenge in that you’re surrounded by Fränkisch speakers. So you go learn Hochdeutsch, then try to understand a conversation in dialect. It can be immensely frustrating. That might be what you’re running into with the nasty receptionists. And I still get nervous speaking/understanding German on the phone – that’s extra hard.

    So that was pretty long-winded, but the point is: it’s not that you’re not working hard enough. It takes time and there are several mitigating factors. You’ll find the pattern that works for you and things will start clicking.

  4. Have no fear. I am sure you will figure German out, like everyone else has said. It will just “click”, hopefully! It will probably be more like not even realizing it until you’re already speaking and understanding. Then you’ll look back and say, “yeah, I did it, now what!?”

    I think immersion is a difficult way to learn to start. In high school our Spanish teacher did that at 3rd year, but she was teaching 3rd and 4th year together. I was totally lost all year. She knew it and tried to help, but, alas, I was a lost cause. If I hadn’t given up, I probably would have learned more. Moral of the story…Don’t give up! You can do it! 🙂 Good luck!

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