On Tuesday I started my “Intensive German Course” to prepare for taking classes in German in October. After the placement test on Tuesday, the students were all divided into seven classes by abilities. I’m in the highest of the seven classes, the high B2 / low C1 group. I’m the only American in the group, and the only native English speaker. There’s a girl from Brazil, three from Japan, and the rest are from Europe: Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary.
The course is challenging, but not insanely difficult. I was really worried at first that everyone would be so far ahead of me, but it’s not really the case. We’re all struggling with different things. Our instructor has us focusing on comprehension and expression, rather than grammar, but we’re covering grammar when there’s a particular issue.
For example, the more formal lanugage used in the newspaper, etc., uses a lot of gerunds (Nominalizierung in German) — turning verb phrases into noun phrases, basically. It’s a tough formula, and it’s frustrating me. I mean, I’m not doing any worse than anyone else, and we’re not really getting graded (the class is for 8 ECTS credits, pass/fail), but what is frustrating for me is the fact that, in English, I’m a teacher, a proofreader, and an editorial assistant, and I’ve never had trouble moving between daily speech and academic lanugage. But this grammar is rough!
The biggest struggle for me is in expressing myself. I “lose” words so often in English, and it’s much worse in German. I know what I want to say, but the words aren’t there. It’s really frustrating. I can understand most of what is said to me, the general meaning if I miss unfamiliar words. Usually what hangs me up is having to try to translate a German word into English—simpler stuff I understand without translating it in my head. But answering back is harder.
It’s coming, though. I can already tell that I’m doing better than in July—Sheridan, too. Her camp has made a big difference! We baked a cake today, and I had her read the directions to me in German and tell me what we needed to do. She got most of it, no problem! She told me this week that her school friend Claudia came here three years ago, and spoke no German at all, but now is completely fluent as if she’d lived her all her life. That makes her feel better, and it makes me feel better, too.
Sheridan’s school starts Tuesday. We have a meeting at the school tommorow to get her all settled in. Wish us luck!