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Published: January 4th 2011
I'm just starting to feel as though I know what I'm doing as a language student this week and of course I finish on Thursday. Friday is a public holiday, the 12th Day of Christmas commemorating the visit of the Three Kings to the Christ Child.
Student numbers have increased again after the Christmas-New Year holidays. We received a few new students into our class including, for example, a young Italian uni student who needs to improve her German for a difficult exam. So she's here for two weeks.
As with all language classes, we must always introduce ourselves to new students , saying where we come from and why we are here. So I have been reflecting on why I am here.The primary reason is the same as before I set out....to improve my German communication so that I can travel around German speaking countries and visit the places which have been so much a part of my musical cultural heritage since I was in primary school and started playing the violin. As an English language teacher I feel that it is an essential courtesy to speak the language of the host country rather than expecting everyone to speak English.
In addition, I felt that it would be a really beneficial professional development experience to sit in a class the way my students do and have everything explained in the target language. And to have to practice with my classmates who, like me have an imperfect command of the language. Having to prepare and present a powerpoint talk for half an hour on Australia. For these reasons alone, I wish I had been able to do it years ago. I have learnt so much.
And of course the challenge of living again in a different cultural and linguistic as well as climatic environment. Trying to buy ingredients to cook or to decode menus so that I don't find myself eating things that I do not like. I am doing quite well. In the jargon of the AMEP program which I am still a part of, I was today able to "negotiate" two "complex problematic transactions"....successfully.
The language school I chose has turned out to be an excellent choice...small ( about 10 classes, of fewer than 8 students in each) and friendly. This afternoon we had a most interesting additional session on classic German products and brand names. And lots of trying of products such as biscuits, gummi bears, 4711 and Jagermeister alcohol (which tastes like cough mixture).
It certainly reminds me of the way teaching used to be....focussed on the human aspects ...responding to individual needs and ensuring the learning process is pleasurable and interesting not strict and obsessed with outcomes and assessments as it is at both AMES and Insearch.
The classroom still has a blackboard and overhead projector as well as lots of flip charts for all the conjugations and declensions we must constantly refer back to. There is lots of homework as well as regular non-threatening tests and a daily review of the previous day's key points of vocabulary, grammar and errors. No computer or data projector.
Our class teacher and the other two I have encountered are all delightful, charming, animated and totally helpful.The entire experience has been most interesting and enjoyable. I could happily imagine myself coming back for another month's worth. Certainly I feel as though I am on a roll with this German thing.
The German aspect has been totally amazing. Part of my intention was to stay somewhere central in Germany so I could make side trips to places I have always wanted to go. I had no idea what level class I would be put in. I have actually not used my German since 1972, which is now, I am horrified to realise, almost 40 years ago. I guess you could say I was good at it once and I must have been well taught in my high school. The stuff we did at Sydney university was preposterous. That's why I discontinued. I still have my textbook and I can't believe they made us do that stuff. It is fascinating to find so much grammar and vocabulary being re-activiated which I would have thought was long ago disused and presumably lost.
So, I'm finishing up here and preparing to travel to Berlin on Friday to spend a week with Eva in her new apartment and have some fun with her there. I hope the weather tomorrow is mild so I can go out and across the Danube river to the other side. There has been so much snow and then last week it was perishingly cold so I have not been everywhere yet. But isn't that always the way when you travel...the more you see, the more you want to see. Never finished. Insatiable! But such great fun.
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