Friday, August 26, 2016

My 10 Bits of Advice on German Language Classes

After a number of classes over the years.....I can say that I've seen just about everything, and like Mark Twain....I'm at a loss to explain to anyone how the German language works but I can explain how the classes end up.  This is advice not only for Americans and Brits.....but for refugees as well.

1.  When the "professor" comes around with the sign-in log for each day....USE only Blue or black ink.  If you pull out some red or green ink pen.....that German professor will freak out and go crazy.  Trust's pretty serious over blue or black ink (don't ask me why).

2.  When they say this is an 'intensive' means that over five weeks....roughly four hours a day....four to five days a week.....they've got a class, and it's designed as a college-level type course.  If you think you can miss three or four days out of that five week period, and still pass the test.....dream on, it won't happen.  They cover too much material each day for you to miss more than maybe two days (hopefully not consecutively).  If you were out for the day, you'd best find someone who takes good notes, and spend an hour with them on what you missed.  At the end of that episode (1.1 for example), you will be tested.  You don't go to 1.2 unless you pass that stupid test.

3.  The book.  No matter where you go.....they go and select a book from some publisher that is designed for a know-nothing-student.  Back in 1985 when I took the German was a 1970's style book and worthless.  Over the past three years.....the books I've seen....are all light-years ahead and worth the nine-to-twelve Euro cost.

4.  The instructors.  There are basically three types of instructors.  There's the actor or comedian type, who is very animated and getting everyone peppy into the rhyme of learning Germany.  Their focus is making German "FUN".  Then instructor two is the die-hard.....very-serious....dynamic instructor who will drill the language over and over into you.  Then the third instructor type is the 3-minute topic instructor who knows precisely how to teach you one simple thing, and it's built into a three-minute lesson.....which you easily pick up that single topic, and then move on.  Each has an advantage or disadvantage in the way they teach.

5.  The classrooms.  I've seen some classrooms over the past three years that were modern and, etc.  And there's some which were left-overs from the 1980s.  None of them had AC, and on extra hot were fairly hot and miserable by noon.

6.  Cost?  If you use the social office's free but you can't fail a single class.  If you are a will pay roughly 300 Euro for each single five-week class.  Twenty years would have been a quarter of that cost.....things have risen greatly over the last two decades.

7.  Characters you bump into and their ability.  I sat in a class once that had almost all immigrants and refugees, with four of us who had college or such in our past out of the twenty students. That class was locked into first-gear and had child-like behavior that went on from day one.  I often refer  to that episode as the "kids class" and quit at the 10th week (15 week course).  I sat in one simple five-week course that had all westerners....majority with a craft or college time....and every day had a great pace.  Some of these language programs will try to pair folks up and get X people into the X-class and Y people into the Y-class.  Don't go expecting that you end up with a good group or bad's just the luck of the thing.

8.  Homework.  When you break for the've got probably 25 minutes of real homework and twenty minutes of stuff to recite or read over.  If you aren't doing the homework and trying to just skip your way through these classes.....don't worry, you won't get past the 5th week or level 1.1.

9.  Anyone who tells you that German is a nutcase.

10.  Islam. 99.99-percent of the occasions or class-time.....Islam won't come up....even if 80-percent of the class is Islam.  Now, that said.....I've had two occasions where it came up and became a noticeable issue.  In one class....we had some naive but clever instructor who was pro-Islam (German gal who was part of the Evangelical Church and a instructor).  She wanted everyone to know she was pro-Islam and thought it was a really keen religious group.....oddly, we only had two Muslims in the whole room out of 20 students.  Around the 10th time that she spoke up about this....I started to shake my head....she had some kind of issue.  It's best not to tell off a German that their behavior is my advice is to just keep quiet.

The second episode was a class which ran during Ramadan.  Along about 10AM, an hour into class, you'd notice dehydration setting in for a dozen of the people in the room.  They couldn't focus well and were having concentration issues.  By 11AM, it was worthless for the instructor to involve them in any class participation.  They were basically zombies and working on heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Ramadan runs for four weeks.  It's safe to say that this four week period for that particular class.....made it utterly worthless and brought me up to speed on the reliability of Muslims in classrooms or at the work-place.  About the only thing I would advise is that you need to keep the number for the ambulance folks nearby and quickly call an ambulance if they fall over from dehydration.

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