Intensive German Course

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!

4 thoughts on “Intensive German Course

  1. Well I am currently trying to learn Italian (not to live on a day to day, just to sing) and I think I am loosing EVERYTHING – english, notes, sanity…And I always knew you would be in the top of your class no matter what class that was! Give everyone a squish for me…I have it always in my head to try and see you…hope I can make it work…and get some of that cake in your fancy kitchen (the pictures look great by the way).

  2. Ahhhhh the language of a foreign country, c’est magnifique, non? I will have to say that out of my French, German and Italian diction classes (back in the ol’ music major days), I had the hardest time with German. Italian you just have to make sure all your vowels are pure and not adultered by our American tendency for diphthongs, and since I have a bit of the yooper accent I can handle the more closed sounds of French. German on the other hand has just too many weird sounds for my lips, teeth and tongue to handle.

    Sounds like, in general, you’re having fun though. We should be getting our comp results back soon. Kinda scared, but what happens happens.

    Talk to you guys soon.


  3. I love the internets. I can get on here and POOF, there’s all my friends in one spot! Except Linda…Linda, where R U?

    I’m impressed you baked a cake with German instructions. I can’t even do it with English ones!

    You’ll be fine. I know it, cuz you always are. That’s what makes you such an exceptionally wonderful egghead. And the reason we all love you and get on here to see how you’re doing. You give the rest of us something to work for – I call it “Micheledom”.

    See, I knew you’d laugh at that… I miss you!

  4. I had a Romanian director once who told us a story about coming to America. She said that she struggled like you are now. She couldn’t find the words to express herself and missed things. She said it was enormously frustrating.

    Then, one day after about a year of emersion she had a eureka moment. It was as if someone unclogged her ears or turned on the lights and suddenly things all came together. From then on, she got it. I somehow doubt I will ever have a eureka moment, but perhaps you will! And it sounds like you are well on your way eureka moment or not. You can do it!


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