Just started the German Beginners course in Tribeca – not a language I have ever planned to study before, but I’m fast becoming hooked by its never-ending words and grammatical rules. As the class is small- only 4 of us- we have plenty of opportunities to practice, and it’s a nice relaxed and enjoyable environment. We spend time getting to know each other today, and learning the basics of the German alphabet and how to pronounce the new letters we see. Bonus- there’s a great coffee place very near the school for me to top up on caffeine before this new form of brain-exercise!
I learnt today that there isn’t a single American in my group. We’re British, Hong Kongese, Spanish and Puerto Rican- a great mix!! I’m not sure if that helps us with our studies or not, but we’re all enthusiastic, which definitely does.
We did quite a lot of review today- very necessary to remind us all of what we learnt, and subsequently forgot, from last week’s class. Saskia, our teacher, is very patient and goes through things with us in both German and English so we don’t miss a thing.
My word of the day: Entschuldigen – Excuse me.
Questions and answers, and our first real look at how verbs are formed. There’s a lot to learn, but fortunately German is a language with a lot of rules, so once I have those down (if ever) I should be able to get quite competent. Learning verb tables reminds me of learning Latin when I was in Secondary school- hopefully I’ll do better with German than I did with Latin though! We learnt and practiced a lot of question forms, and asked each other about families and pets. I’m getting to know the other students quite well now, and in class we have no secrets!
Kein and nicht – 2 ways to say no. Sounds easy? Well, it’s not- combined with word order and part of speech to determine usage I feel like I’m wading through a big linguistic swamp. When I say no I mean no, so I don’t want to get this wrong. A few exercises for homework will help, but much more important is the practice we do in class to reiterate the different uses and smooth out the errors.
The mid-way point of the class, and at this point I feel like I have already come quite a long way. I can introduce myself, talk about my family, talk about jobs and use different verbs in the present tense, as well as being able to ask quite a lot of questions. Now it’s just time to get used to listening to the different accents out there.
We also had a quick-fire question quiz in class, a kind of review of everything we’ve done so far. Quite a few things have clicked into place, so I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much- we all had fun and ended the class on a German high!
Unfortunately I had to miss this class- I hope I didn’t miss too much though. Fortunately my very kind teacher Saskia sent me a summary of the class and homework by e-mail, so I can still keep up in my own time and I won’t feel too left behind next class.
Phew- there was a review of last class on the board when I arrived, and as I was a little early I had a chance to talk to Saskia about the grammar of the previous class. Important stuff too- like, love and hate- I wouldn’t want to miss out on how to say that, not that my husband will understand when I coo Ich liebe dich in his ear.
Time to learn the imperative, and give orders. As a teacher myself I can be quite bossy, so I can see this coming in handy.
Again another very intense class – we did a lot of work with the different cases in German – Accusative, Nominative and Dative. Compared with English this language is pretty complicated, but once you get the hang of it you feel like you can conquer the world!! Needless to say, I haven’t conquered anything yet, but with a little practice I should do OK.
The whole group felt quite tired by the end, but nothing that a drink together after the next class won’t improve!
Essen und Einkaufen – Eating and shopping – 2 essential subjects to learn about. There are a lot of interesting cultural facts which go with food too, like the German for dinner- Abendbrot – means evening bread. And they only have a very light dinner, not like the English who tend to have their largest meal in the evening.
We also studied time – and now I know why Germans are always early: their halb zwie – ‘half ten’ actually means 9.30!! Half before ten. We don’t stand a chance against that!
Last class- really? Already? It seems like 10 weeks have whizzed past, and I actually feel like I have learnt quite a lot. OK, so I’m sure I make mistakes every sentence, but I can speak and understand a range of topics, talk about what (or who) I love, like and hate, go to a restaurant or hotel and not be completely embarrassed, find my way around a new city, ask quite a lot of questions… all the things you need for a trip to Germany as a matter of fact.
2 of my co-students are actually off to Germany for work next week, so we spent some time in class going over things they would need to be able to say when they get there. They both looked happy and confident- and I’m sure they’ll have a fantastic time.
I had to finish the course with a new sentence: Deutschland hat ein sehr gutes Fussballspiel gespielt – Germany played a very good game of football.
My teacher was very happy with the results so far- and next will be the Germany- England game. Go England!!
So all in all I’m a happy student following this course, and I hope I’ll be able to sign up for the next level to keep it up. In the meantime I’m going to take Saskia’s advice and get down to the Goethe Institut for some language practice. She also recommended a website www.leo.org which has resources and a dictionary- sounds good to me!
Cactus runs German evening courses in New York and San Diego.
Those wishing to practise their newfound language skills abroad can take a German course in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. Learning a language in the country where it’s spoken is the ideal way to really immerse yourself in the language and culture.