Tag Archives: langauge

Vienna: Day 12 and Reflections

26 Aug

On Friday not only was it time for school to finish, but it was also time to fly home. I went to the lessons in the morning and because it was also one of the teacher’s last days, she had brought in some cake for the class. If it wasn’t for this teacher, I don’t think that I would have stayed at the school and I possibly would have asked for my money back. Her lessons were fun and I have learnt a lot of words and phrases which will be useful in the future. I think that she could sense my frustration and so she said that if I wanted to doing some writing or exercises that I could give it to her and she would happily look at it. Of course, I took her up on this offer as I wanted to get my money’s worth!

When it was time to leave, I must admit that I felt sad to be leaving. The group that I had been in school with for the past two weeks was full of characters. I am not sure how else to put it. It was interesting to be with people with different experiences and nationalities. In a lot of respects I am jealous of those who are still there and will continue with the learning next week and in the weeks beyond. This is due to a few reasons. Mainly because I would prefer not to go to work on Monday. Also Vienna is a really nice place to be and there are about a hundred different things that I would have liked to do or see while I was there.

I am hugely jealous that other people have the luxury of time to devote to learning the language. One of the reasons to go away for two weeks was because it is hard to study while working full-time. After 8 or more hours at work, who wants to sit down and conjugate verbs for the rest of the evening, instead of doing something more interesting or fun.

 

Although I don’t think that I have made the progress that I was hoping for, my German has improved. I feel more confident about speaking especially. I was thinking earlier that I don’t think I have spoken more than 100 words in English for the whole time that I was there. That is an achievement in itself. Because there were only German, Austria and Swiss TV channels, I was forced to watch TV in German. Of course, I have German channels at home but I also have the huge temptation of BBC and ITV, which are easier to watch after a day at work.

I have been able to consolidate on some topics that I wasn’t sure of and this may help me save time in the longer term. As I have mentioned in a previous post, it is difficult to be able to benchmark myself when I take lessons alone, so it was good to see how I shape up against my peers. I am know considering whether to ditch the private lessons that I have been taking in Switzerland and take some group lessons instead, as this will give me more speaking practice and may help to give me more confidence in general.

Here is a short list of some surprising things that I have found out while I was in Vienna:

  • I speak German with a Swiss accent.
  • It is completely acceptable to have cake for lunch in Austria and no-one will judge you for it.
  • Austrian food is more than just Bratwurst.
  • Vienna is one of the most arcitecutrially beautiful cities I have ever visited, and I have visited a few.
  • Customer service is a concept that the Austrians are yet to embrace.
  • I actually like going for a run in the afternoon/evening, so long as the pace isn’t too fast.
  • Being a student is more tiring than it is having a full-time job.
  • I know more of Mozart’s work than I thought I did.
  • There are more famous Austrians in the world than just Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Overall an interesting experience and I was able to experience another city in the world at a more leisurely pace than I normally do.

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Vienna: Days 4 and 5

18 Aug

The past few days I have been in the school for the morning and in the afternoon explored the city a bit.

Although the themes in the class haven’t been anything more advanced a few topics have come up that I needed some extra practice on anyway.

In one of the classes someone asked if we come watch the German film Die Welle (The Wave). I had never heard of the film before but it was based on a real experiment that happened at an American school. The basic premise is that a teacher tries to prove to the students that, despite all the lessons that we think we have learnt about fascism, there is still a real danger that a dictatorship could once again happen in the western world.

Of course, the students all think that this couldn’t possibly happen but before they know it they are beginning to give the teacher (who assumes the role of the Dictator) the status of an idol and do whatever he says without questioning him. It soon turns into destruction and death.

Apparently the real experiment happened over 3 or 4 months and not a week like the film depicts and there was a bit of destruction but no death.

It’s an interesting topic to think about anyway but perhaps more so when I think about our friends over the Atlantic and the similarities that have been drawn between Trump and other famous dictators.

There is also a book of the same name which I will try to read in German, even though I much prefer to read the book before the film.

On Thursday afternoon we walked around the city. The city isn’t so big and it’s easy to work out all the different routes and shortcuts. I’m still really impressed with how beautiful the city is. The building are so elegant and the white marble against the backdrop of an electric blue sky with no clouds makes it even more impressive-looking.

The heat in the city is incredible at the moment and it was uncomfortable to walk around so much so we came back to the apartment to read and try to cool down. In the evening we ran to Schloss Schönbrunn again. We went a bit further than on Tuesday and it felt a lot better as well.

On Friday we had lunch at the apartment and walked to Schloss Schönbrunn. When we have run there, the grounds were already closed so we couldn’t have a look round.

The grounds surrounding the building are huge and it must take a lot of people a lot of time to keep the grounds looking so nice. It was a nice afternoon so lots of people and children were milling about.

In the picture you can see Schloss Schönbrunn and the surrounding area. Wandering around the grounds you would never realise that you were so near to a large city. You can barely hear any traffic noise. You could be anywhere.

The temperature is still in the 30s so it will be a hot evening tonight. Lucky (and only a Brit could say this) tomorrow it will rain! Yes! It needs to cool down a bit, especially as I have promised to go for a 10k run with my training partner/boyfriend tomorrow.

Mystery Solved!

4 Mar

After my last post, I was seriously concerned about what I have actually been doing for the last 3 months. After much brain-racking, noggin-searching and head-scratching I have finally what it is. Though I warn you to be disappointed…

The last 3 months I have been mainly reading. Not very rock and roll, is it? I have spent most of my time with my head in a book and I have loved just about every minute of it. I would class myself as an avid reader but sometimes I can find reading a bit of a chore, especially when I can’t get into the book and the characters or the plot are unbelievable or unrealistic. This year I am yet to encounter this problem. It seems that I have effortlessly got into a book, devour it in a few days and then I am ready for the next one.

For the past few years, I have been attempting to read (on average) one book a week. I have always failed. I have an app called Goodreads, in which I can record what books I have read. This means it is easy to keep a record of how many I have read and what I have read. There is nothing worse than getting 50 pages into a book and realising that you have read it before.

Last year I read 39 books in total. In 2015, I read 31 books. So far this year, I have read 11 books and I am sure that I will finish my twelfth over the weekend. This means I am on course to read (on average) one book a week in 2017.

Four of the books that I have read this year have been in German. These books are shorter than a novel than I would read in English and a couple of them were aimed at a level that is a little bit lower than my level of German but I was still able to learn a few new words that I haven’t yet encountered. I am not sure if books read in another langauge should be counted as double for the purposes of this venture.

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Reading is actually a very good way to increase your learning of a language. Even if you do not understand all of the words in the story, you can look up words that keep reocurring and reinforce some of the grammar themes that you have learnt. Some people find it easier to rote learn grammar from a sheet but I find it much more effective to see how the grammar is used in context. Once you have seen the grammar three or four times in context, it is more likely to stick in your brain.

I also think that reading texts which are a little bit too hard is good practice if ever you decide to do a language exam. It is extremely unlikely that you will know all of the words printed on the exam paper and so it is important to be able to work out the meaning of the word by instinct and interpretation. A best guess is better than having no clue at all.

I am just looking at the list of books that I have read this year. It is an eclectic mix. There is the story of an MP who accidently kills an endangered species of owl, a story about life of teenagers living in the time of the Berlin Wall and a cult, who prey on vulnerable people in order to fund other nefarious activities.

Thinking about it in these terms, the reason why I have lost track of what I have been doing lately is because I have been transported to 1980s Berlin, I have been following the unraveling of a political scandal (with a Conservative MP as the lead, surprise, surprise) and I have been trying to piece together clues to solve a criminal investigation. And the whole time I was on the train to work!

That is why I love books.

Operation Full Immersion: Day 5

19 Jan

I was up early again this morning for my first of two lessons. I must say that my a-little-bit eccentric teacher is really growing on me. She has such enthusiasm about learning that you just can’t help but carried along with it. We spend most of the lesson talking. She asked me to give a small presentation about my favourite book and we spend a lot of time talking about the different themes in the book.

She knows that I like reading because I mentioned it yesterday  and that I also read some books in German (or, at least I try to). She takes 2 books out of her bag. One is by a Swiss author and one is by Franz Kafka. She explains a bit of the plot of the story to me and says that she has two copies of these books so I am welcome to take them with me. How lovely is that! I have always wanted to read some Kafka but I never thought that I would ever read it in the original language it was written in.

We talk some more about memory and most of the questions that she asked me are hard to explain in English. I muddle through it some how and manage to partly answer the questions. We finish off singing a song together because “I sang so well yesterday”. I am not sure if my confidence in German has grown but my confidence in singing has. I might audition for the X-Factor at this rate!lowenbrau-1693942__340

I have some free time before my next lesson. I go to a well-known coffee shop again and use their internet for free while doing some grammar exercises. I have completely stopped feeling guilty about this. As it costs almost 3 Euros for a tea, the WiFi is certainly NOT free.

Refreshed and ready to go, I head back to the language school for my next lesson with another teacher. I can sense some sort of jealousy going on between the teachers. This teacher asks what I have done with the other teacher and how I found it. I find it a little bit odd. It’s an odd situation all round. I wanted some groups lesson and some private lessons and then the group lessons were changed to private lessons as well; now I feel a bit like a pawn in between to warring fractions.

I realise in my first lesson that I am tired and I made some mistakes that I really shouldn’t be making any more. I try to focus 100% in the second lesson but this makes me feel even more tired. Anyway, we talk about learning languages and how it differs in Germany to England. I mention that the English tend to be a bit lazy because everyone in the world can speak good English. There are many studies which prove that being bilingual, multilingual or even the process of learning a language can have benefits for the brain and also in the pay packet.

Later on, we move onto some grammar topics that I have been having difficulties with and these seem to be a lot clearer now. It has been useful to specifically look at some topics I have been meaning to understand better. I also have these grand ideas that I will spend time on these topics at home to understand them better but I never end up doing it. Having someone else explain something to you that you just can’t seem to get can also make a difference. I have certainly found that out this week.

Straight after the lesson I go to  join another walking tour. This time the topic is the Third Reich. The sun seems to be out but it gives the false impression that it is warmer that it was yesterday. It was -8 degrees and I was stood out in it for about 3 hours.

As you can probably imagine, a 3 hour walking tour about the Third Reich is not the best feel good activity that you could ever do but I feel that this topic is intrinsically linked to the history of Munich and modern day Munich. I was left feeling a little bit depressed at the end. However, the tour guide was very well informed and he really brought to life why Munich was so important to the success of the Nazi and which events unfolded where in the city.

I find it mind-blowing when I think of some of the places that I have been and who was there before me. But this time it made my spine shiver. The guide explained the events of 8 November 1939 when the Nazis walked into Odeonplatz and it was by sheer luck that Hilter was able to get away unscathed. If he hadn’t the whole of human history would have panned out differently. I have no idea if this would have been better or worse but no doubt it would have been different.

The tour itself brought the city and its history to life for me. It was far more interesting than reading a book or watching a TV reconstruction and I found out a lot of things that I didn’t know before or things that I had completely forgotten about from being told in my school days.

Tired from another 3 hours of German lessons, I head home to relax and prepare for my last day!