Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Learning German

People often ask me how I learned German. The answer? Volkshochschule. 

Folks-hoke-what??? Volkshochschule. Pronounced Folks-hoke-shoola. 

If you live in Germany, go to the Volkshochschule.  They have one in just about every town it seems.  

Literally translated "People High School" they offer a variety of classes--art, vocational training, cooking--and a variety of language courses, at all times of the day.  But, if you have the time, sign up for their intensive, integrative German for foreigners (listed under "Deutsch als Fremdsprache").  It is incredible.  

Four hours a day, five days a week, four weeks per unit, six units total, nothing but German the entire time.  Whoa, is it ever a bit overwhelming but you will most definitely learn German.  

And you'll get to meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world along the way.  Here we have Thailand, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Great Britain, Bangladesh and of course America!

The teacher starts from the ground up.  The first week I told everyone I was back in Kindergarten because I was basically learning, in German, what a kid would learn in Kindergarten, in a way that a kid in Kindergarten would learn.  
If you're not so sold yet on the VHS, just keep in mind that they were able to teach me, poor little English-speaking American girl who couldn't even learn Spanish despite 6 years of it in school and practically living in Mexico, to successfully carry on a conversation with other Germans. Yeah, they're that good.

And reasonably priced compared to many of the private companies. 

One of the very first (and BEST!) things I did when I first moved here was sign up for an intense German integration course.  Intense in the sense that I went 4 hours a day, 5 days a week for 6 months straight. 

Whew!  That was a lot of German.  But so worth it.  

I am not a smarty pants like my husband who can just listen to people and become fluent.  In his four years of living here he has not had a single German lesson.  Not-a-one.  And yet, somehow he understands most things and is able to carry on a conversation with most people.

Confession: I am slightly jealous.  Jealous because, I needed the 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, 6 months straight, let's start from kindergarten and work our way up, hold my hand, give me homework, play games with me, step-by-step instruction.  That's just how I learn.

Together we are fluent.  Or at least more fluent than on our own. With my grammar and his vocabulary, we get by just fine.  However, we also have many a moment where we have no idea what is going on.  

In the beginning I used to think, "Gosh, how is he understanding what this person is saying? I have no idea what they're talking about!!!" But over time, I have come to learn that he was doing just what I was doing...smiling and nodding.  

Laughing when the other person laughs.  Throwing in a "Ja" every now and then.  Listening intently and putting on our best "Of course I have a clue what you're talking about" face. 

That's how we get by. 

I know I will probably never be completely fluent, but I also know I wouldn't be as far along as I am if I hadn't attended the Volkshochschule. 

Check it out, you might be pleasantly surprised.  


Amy said... Best Blogger Tips

Despite 10 monthes of intensive German class, I do the "smile and nod" as well. I feel like no matter how good my German gets, if someone is talking about a topic that I have a very limited vocabulary in I will inevitable feel lost.

Sidenote: It is NOT fair that Luis is so talented with German. I cannot believe he has never taken a lesson. He is really good.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

um... do you happen to have posted either this (or a similar) posting some time ago? Or perhaps used the photo in another post? Somehow it gives me a strange feeling of déjà-vu...
Anyway, hope you're doing well and keeping my fingers crossed for a successful treatment of your dad without side-effects.
Best wishes,

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh, how I would LOVE to go to your school with you!

Hockey Wife said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for the tip Cara! Our GM mentioned lessons at the beginning of the season but it never came up again. So I'm going to see if there's a Volkshochschulen in our area right now!

I'm to the point, after my ten (combined) months in Germany, where I can understand most of what people say. The problem is that I can't formulate a German sentence to save my life!

Fingers crossed that I can do this next season!

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