One of the things I like about living in Germany, is that when people are throwing stuff out, they give you a chance to get your mitts on it first. This is definitely not stealing.
And so, one day last week, my flatmate and I were gleefully rummaging through other people’s junk, when I struck gold. Yes, it’s my ‘new’, incredibly colourful German notebook. Thank you, neighbour.
Putting it carefully into my backpack, mature student-stylee, I made my way to the school for my first official lesson. I bounded into the office, paid the balance for my course, bought the book, and babbled away at the bemused receptionist.
Brunhilde: You’re very excited, aren’t you?
Me: YES! I’ve been waiting for this day for weeks!
I found the right classroom and tried to calm the attack of nerves that had suddenly overtaken me. Who was I kidding? German is insanely difficult to learn, and because of my advancing years, it would be even more so. This was going to be a disaster…
While we waited for the teacher, I chatted to a French girl and sized up the
competition other students. I told myself I was probably smarter than them – if in doubt, be incredibly arrogant to overcompensate.
The teacher came in, and I actually knew her. Considering I only know around 10 people in Berlin, this was kind of a miracle. She also works at one of the schools I work at, and we’d been at an induction together the week before. Small world.
We got down to business – my name is…, I’m from…, I live in…, I’m an (English teacher). The class was all done through German, but to my amazement, I could actually understand everything. It seemed like the hours on Duolingo and with my ‘Learn German’ book had paid off after all. The class consisted of the French girl, an American girl, an Italian guy, an English guy, an annoyingly mouthy Croatian and his weirdly silent brother. I figured his silence was the result of years of trying to get a word in, and failing.
After around 15 minutes, the Italian raised his hand.
Luigi: I’m sorry, but is this the beginners’ class? I haven’t understood one word you’ve said, or written on the board.
Britney: Me neither.
Meinhilde assured them (in German) that it was indeed the beginners’ class and that the receptionist must have lied to them on the phone when she’d told them that the first classes would be taught through English.
Aside from feeling rather smug that my German was definitely not the worst in the class, I also felt really sorry for him. In addition, it gave me an insight into how my beginners must feel. Poor buggers. I’ll definitely be more patient and less assuming in future.
I spent the rest of the class translating everything for hapless Luigi, who happened to be sitting next to me. I wasn’t sure that he would come back, but on Thursday night, I was happy to see him show up again. He still didn’t know anything but at least he’s trying. We all have to start somewhere, right?
We had to do our first writing exercise in the second lesson, and when we were finished Meinhilde invited answers. I listened to three or four wrong answers each time before piping up with the correct one. It seems like I’m going to be that student. Luckily, I didn’t go there to make friends.
On my way out, excited by my perceived awesomeness, I threw my knickers in the air in triumph.
And now I have to go and do my homework so I can be annoyingly smug again tomorrow.