Tag Archives: progress

Operation Full Immersion: Day 2

16 Jan

So, the big day is here and I started back at school again *cough*. The stress of finding the language was eradicated after I worked out where to go last night after I arrived. I wasn’t quite prepared for the amount of people that would be on the U-Bahn. It was packed! The carriage are relatively small and are certainly not as big as the trams in Zurich, for instance.

I arrived safely and on time and got to the reception. The class that I was put into had about 15 people in it, which was more than I thought there would be. For the 9am start there were about 6 of us and then throughout the morning more and more people joined. The class was ok but it was clear quite soon into the lesson that the lesson was too easy for me. I had already done the grammar and the general topics before. That isn’t to say that I learnt nothing, rather that I was expected and wanted it to be more challenging. The whole point of the exercise was that I would be able to practice at the level that I am at, or ideally a level higher so that I can learn more in a short space of time.

There was even a test on the previous chapter that the class has already done which I managed to complete with no problems. At least, I think so. There were certainly no major flaws.

I have given feedback that the group was too easy for me and I would like to be put into a more difficult group or I would like to have my money back. I was a bit reluctant to ask this because it sounds a bit big headed but I am sure that the teacher I had will also think the same. At the end of the day, it is my cold hard cash that I am spending so I want to get my money’s worth. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a more difficult group in progress. The school have kindly offered to transfer my group lessons to private lessons.

I then had a private lesson straight after the group lesson. I learnt a lot in the one and a half hours. I already sent a short list of topics that I would like to go through and need a bit of help with. It looks like my Konsekutiv- and Konzessiv- sentences are now much improved. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

Four and a half hours into the German learning and I am definitely beginning to feel more positive and confident about my ability to speak German. I haven’t spoken any English since Sunday. When I think about it, this is an incredible achievement in itself. It is not always easy to realise how much progress you have made when you are always focused in the moment and it is hard to realise the bigger picture. german-64270__340

One thing that has annoyed me slightly is that the two teachers I had today have commented on my “Swiss” accent. I know when I speak that I will never sound like a German but I had no idea that I had picked up a Swiss accent. I am not even sure what a Swiss accent sounds like. At least one of the teachers mentioned it was a very nice Swiss accent. I don’t help myself though. I keep using Swiss German words by mistake. I have said “Merci” to someone at least six times already instead of “Danke”. It’s like it is programmed into my head and I can’t get rid of it.

In answer to the question that I was asking yesterday: after four and a half (and maybe a bit more) of German, my brain has not yet imploded in on itself. I guess it means that I can try to learn a bit more and see what the flashpoint is. I am now going to have a wander around the city, eat and probably come back to watch a (German) film before bed.

The Reader

26 Nov

Recently I finished reading my first book in German. I mean an actual proper German book, not a children’s book, a comic but actual Literature (note the capital “L”). All 204 pages of it.

What I have dubbed “The Reading Project” started because my German teacher suggested that I should choose a book to read and at the start of each lesson describe to her what happened in the part of the story that I read since the last lesson. It would be a good opportunity to increase my vocabulary and to learn passively. The only caveat was the book had to be originally written in German; no German translations of English texts were allowed (which basically means no Harry Potter).

She gave me full choice of what to read. I went into a bookshop and browsed through the books until I came to a book called Der Vorleser. The English translation is The Reader. You might remember from a few years back that Kate Winslet won an Oscar for her role in the screen adaptation of this book. So, yes, in effect I was cheating a bit because I already knew the outline of the story.


It was only after I had bought the book and I had told my teacher that I what I was reading that I realised that I might have made a terrible mistake. Firstly, after a few pages it was apparent that this book was relatively difficult. In the beginning, it felt like I was looking up every other word and progress was slow and painful.

But my second mistake was that I had forgot what the main theme of the book was. If you have seen the film (or read the book), you will know what I mean. The main premise of the book was the relationship of the 15 year-old boy and a 36 year-old woman. The relationship starts of innocent enough and then develops into a sexual relationship. This meant that I had to explain some, ahem, intimate details.

My description of what happened at a certain point in the novel went something a little bit like this (translated into English):

Me: So, he was sitting in the bath and then she came in and she was naked, and so on…

Teacher: What do you mean by “and so on”?

Me: You know, they like did things that adults do when they are alone together in bed. Oh my god this is so embarrassing…

Teacher: It might be embarrassing but it is important to know this stuff in German as well!

I guess that she did have a point but explaining this stuff would have been embarrassing for me if in was in English. To try to describe it succintly in another language, while I desparately struggled to find words and phrases, was near on impossible.

Thankfully, not all of the book was like this. The themes of the book are complex and I realised that I had forgotten most of the story and the plot twists. A really difficult part for me to understand was when the story moved to a courtroom and there was a lot of legal terms and jargon that made it difficult to understand what was going on all of the time. I am an avid reader and the main reason for me engaging in reading is for pure enjoyment and escapism. An exercise where I need to look up words in the dictionary constantly takes away some of the joy of reading for me.

All in all, I feel like this is a huge acheivement for me but that is not to say that I am 100% satisifed with my progress with the German language. Just two days ago I was ready to quit learning and just give up because I don’t feel as if I am able to remember everything that I have learnt and spending huge quantities of time and money on it in the process. But I have learnt so much since starting to learn 3 years ago and sometimes it is easy to forget that.

I am always reminded by my friend who, when I was explaining how frustrated I was with this language, said “Language learning isn’t linear”. No, it isn’t. But I think it’s about time someone changed it so that it is.