Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Boot Camp

Its been positively ages since I blogged! A brief update: Gwendolyn, our Georgian friend, came to visit. After she left Ryan came back, but this morning he left again on a fire-extinguishing visit to a problematic solar field near the French Riviera.

And I started a new German class. A course here is about 8 weeks, and having completed A2, I have been promoted to B1. Not only that, but the teachers decided to divide us into a "fast" and "slow" class. So I went from sleeping through a normal class to sweating through the fast class.

On Monday a posted list directed me to the top floor of the building. It was 2 minutes past, but the room was still dark and empty. A moment later I was joined by a black-clad, multiply pierced girl. Normal Friedrichshain morning. Then a taller girl entered, also dressed in black and topped off with loud clomping boots and a green military jacket. I scooted in so she could come sit by us, but instead she went to the front. This was our new teacher.

Corinna, my last teacher, was lanky and quiet. Her voice was the type that should read stories to children as they drift off to sleep. My new teacher, Ulrike, (funny side note, the night before Ryan and I watched "Der Baader-Meinhof Complex" a movie about a 1970s German terrorist organization with a leader called Ulrike Meinhof) is to Corinna as Che Guevara is to Snow White.

Every morning her voice booms "what is the proper case for this? And this? Explain why! No, incorrect! You, explain!" After the first 3 days my brain feels like its been through a blender. In my old class I wrote maybe 3-8 vocabulary words in my notebook every day, these days its more like 20.

Two of my classmates from my former class have joined me. Tony, a hilarious Catalan who, although often lost, always manages a joke; and Sara, also Spanish, who only periodically pops out of the fog she seems to live in. I don't want to sound harsh, she's very nice, but every morning she walks in and asks "What day is today?" and often seems genuinely surprised by the answer. "Tuesday? Really? But wasn't yesterday Thursday?"

The rest of our class is Ulrike's former class, 1 Spanish, 1 Peruvian, and 2 Italians, plus a brand new Dane. Up until last month I'd never met a Danish person and now I know four. Its a strange shift to be the only native English speaker in the class, and when things can't be explained in German they are often rattled off in Spanish, sending me diving after my dictionary.

But tomorrow I'm looking forward to a little respite. Ulrike is teaching our class 3 days a week, and Martin, one of my former teachers, is taking Thursday and Friday. His style is more relaxed, and usually slower. So hopefully we'll get some of that, not Martin sped up and drilling.

1 comment:

Bonnie Jean said...

For a kick, I've started taking online lessons in Welsh. (I'm already looking ahead in dread to the wonderful world of mutations... blerg) However, I got a giggle from the following line, regarding familiar vs. formal conjugation of "you" - "Failure to use the formal form when you should could make you appear to be pushy or American or both."