Having been told, on more than one occasion, that I have a flair for the dramatic – it wasn’t meant as a compliment – this week, I decided to put this theory to the test and try out “German with Theatre Games”.
The lesson was to take place at 77 Kastanienallee, which is right at the opposite end of the city. I left myself plenty of time (as usual), found 75, walked past 77, which is a cinema, and hit 79. Huh. Guess it must be down that dark alley somewhere. So I trotted through the darkness until I came to a courtyard. Nope, nothing to see here. So I headed through the second dark alley until I came to the second dark courtyard.
I followed the signs to the third floor and pushed at the door. Locked. I had managed to arrive before the teacher even got there. I stood for a couple of minutes admiring what I hoped was my artistically mysterious, all-black clothing, shoving at the door every now and then.
The teacher showed up right on time, but I wasn’t allowed in until I had removed my boots. Crap. This was about the time “artistically mysterious” went awry.
When I walked in, Traudl the Teacher had also removed her socks. Great. A hippy. And I hate feet. Still, I tried to make polite conversation for a few minutes until, finally, Claudio showed up. With two people, we could get started. The theme of the “lesson” was drinks and restaurants, something I felt I could get on board with.
But first, we had to move “freestyle” around the room to music, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is one of my all-time favourite activities…
I chose to shuffle around glaring accusingly at my non-mysterious pink socks. As the room was roughly the same temperature as the streets (0 Celsius), this activity was probably more for survival purposes than anything else.
Next Traudl put a “Ja” card in one corner, and a “NEIN” card in another. We had to ask each other questions to get to know each other a bit.
Me: Können sie singen? (Can you sing?)
Traudl: No, no, there’s no “sie” in this space, only “du”. (The informal “you” in German.)
Me: OK, but I’m asking two of you so then it would be the plural, “ihr”. “Du” doesn’t make any sense.
Traudl: Please use “du” in this space.
We threw a massive workout ball around for a bit with me trying not to aim for Traudl’s head. Two more girls had shown up in the meantime.
Next up was a “game” where we had to pretend to be something else. Traudl showed off her acting skills by pretending to be a worm and lying on the floor, wriggling. I wondered why she wasn’t in Hollywood. Claudio ran over and pretended to be a bird and another girl became a tree. The bird took the worm and it was game over. Seemingly we were practising our article forms. This continued for some time and, while I’m not sure it helped my articles much, I’m pretty sure I could be a convincing worm now…
Traudl gathered us all into a circle and it was time to shout, “JA, NEIN AND DOCH”, with various hand gestures, at each other. After a while, these three words were replaced with DIE heiße Schokolade, DER frischgepresste Orangensaft, and DAS alkoholfreie Getränk. The shouting and gesturing continued for a further ten minutes or so. Admittedly, I’ll never forget the articles that go with these drinks, but can this really be counted as learning the language in any sort of meaningful way?
After what seemed like an eternity, we were put into groups of three (two more people had shown up 30 and 40 minutes late) and instructed to write a drinks menu. After a while, Traudl bare-footedly bounced over to inspect ours.
Traudl: But wait, what’s this?
Traudl: Oh no, that’s not a thing. You mean light beer.
Me: No. I don’t.
Traudl: (Scribbling out my word)
Me: No, obviously you have light beer and dark beer but Weißbier is something different.
Traudl: No, no, you mean light beer.
Me: Sure. And “DU” can kiss my white Irish Arsch.
It wasn’t like I needed much convincing at this point, but seriously, what can I possibly learn from a GERMAN who knows nothing about BEER? She’d also never heard of Hoegaarden.
Finally, we had to act out a couple of “ordering in a restaurant” scenes, which luckily, we all knew how to do anyway as we’d had zero input in this respect in the preceding 75 minutes.
Seemingly it had taken Traudel – professional actress and German teacher – three years to “perfect” this teaching technique. I’m pretty sure I could have beaten her by 2 years, 364 days and 23.5 hours. She even made two spelling mistakes AND an article mistake in the “useful language” .pdf she posted the next day.
Clearly, I would not recommend “German with Theatre Games”, unless maybe you have a foot fetish. However, Hollywood, you there? If you’re ever looking for a convincing worm, I’ve got just the woman…