Tag Archives: Die Neue Schule

Our German teacher hates us

Or maybe she just hates all people, or life in general – it’s hard to say.

We’re at the end of the seventh week of the course. In that time, we’ve had three different teachers. The first teacher hightailed it to Düsseldorf to get away from us; we had a really nice teacher for one week who greatly helped our pronunciation and seemed genuinely interested in improving our German in general; now we have the hippy from hell. She seems more interested in picking at the holes in her leggings and playing with her “white person dreads” than she is in us.

She seems to forget that while we may not be very clever in German, we’re actually a pretty smart bunch in real life – a scientist, an economist, an engineer… Naturally, she took an instant dislike to the poor Italian, who she treats as if he has the IQ of a baked bean. I don’t think she’s realised that taking the piss out of him in German, which she does frequently, is totally wasted on him as I’m the only one who can understand her.

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Thankfully, I only have two more lessons to go, as I only booked eight weeks to begin with. Frankly, I’m not overly impressed with the school, the teachers, or the organisation of the classes. As a teacher, it’s pretty easy to spot when another teacher shows up with no idea where we are in the book, or what we had for homework, and this is the impression I get here.

However, I do feel that I’ve gained something from the classes, though probably not as much as I’ve gained from my flatmates, Dietmar and total strangers. I’m kind of in love with the German language so I’m constantly experimenting with the few words I do have, believing that I’m speaking Deutsch, when in reality, I’m speaking Denglish.

Me: Hallo, schlaf-y Kopf.

Hildeberta: What?

Me: Sleepy head. Schlaf-y Kopf.

Hildeberta: Ha ha ha! NEIN, that does not work in German. You have to say “Schlafmütze”!

Me: Schlafmütze. Yes, I like that. 

Hildeberta: Just be careful you say “Schlaf” and not “Schlaff”.

Me: What? They both sound the same. What’s the difference?

Hildeberta: “Schlaf” means sleep. “Schlaff” means “limp dick”.

Me: Right. Well, I guess that could come in handy too… 

On Wednesday night, we were out as it was Hildeberta’s last night before she took off for the depths of southern Germany for Christmas.

Me: Hurrah for delicious Glühwein – hoch fünf! 

Hildegard: What? 

Me: Hoch fünf – high five.

Hildegard: Bah haha! No German has ever said that EVER! 

Me: Why not? It makes perfect sense.

Hildegard: Yeah, I guess you’re right…

“Hoch fünf” is now the running joke in our apartment. I’m hoping it will catch on in the rest of Germany too. Who’s with me?

While the girls are sweet and patient, Dietmar treats my German language-learning like German boot camp. Some evenings when I go round there, I feel like I’m being initiated into the German army, rather than relaxing with a glass of Cognac.

Dietmar: What is that in German? (Points at the fridge)

Me: I don’t know. 

Dietmar: “Kühlschrank” – say it. 

Me: Kühlschrank. 

Dietmar: Gut. What is that in German? 

Me: I don’t know. I’m tired…

Dietmar: NEIN! You will learn! Drop and give me twenty! 

Me: Sigh. 

He then instructs me to get various things from various places in the kitchen by giving me directions in German. He ends up with the toaster, kettle, corkscrew, mobile phone, bread… before I finally hand him the glass he was actually looking for. At least I find it funny.

However, bit by bit, I can see that I’m making progress – though obviously not fast enough for Dietmar. Yesterday evening, on my way to the train station, I decided to stop off at my favourite Glühwein stand on Friedrichstraße for a quickie before going home.

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I got chatting to two really nice German women on their way home from work. Their English was pretty limited, so German was really the only option we had. To my amazement, they could actually understand me, and I could understand around 80% of what they were saying. I’m pretty sure I made hundreds of mistakes over the course of what turned out to be four Glühweine, but we muddled through.

So, I’m going to keep doing what I do – entertaining the Germans in my life with my hilarious German, while trying to make my own particular brand of Irish-German a real thing.

Hoch fünf everyone!

 

 

 

Linda does Deutsch

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.

I'm a big fan
I’m a big ‘fan’

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.

At least I'll never lose it.
At least I’ll never lose it.

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! 

Brunhilde: OK… 

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…

SOS was right
SOS was right

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.

Not really, but watch this space.
Not really, but watch this space.

And now I have to go and do my homework so I can be annoyingly smug again tomorrow.

It’s all about now

“Scheiße” (shit), “genau” (exactly), and “ach so…” are probably the three things you will hear Germans say most often. Sometimes I feel like I’m in Japan I hear “ach so…” so often.

While picking up these few words was easy enough, clearly my German needs improving. I’ve been watching a bit of German TV, and although I can’t understand most of what’s going on, I’m definitely picking up a few words here and there. “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” is definitely beyond me though – I’m still trying to read the question, and they’ve already answered it and moved on.

While it’s true that a lot of Germans speak passable English, I don’t want to be one of those English-speaking people that just assumes everyone speaks English – you know, if you say it LOUDER and more s-l-o-w-l-y, then of course the foreigners will understand…

Passable English
Passable English

Considering I’ve only been here around six weeks, I don’t think I’m doing too badly. However, I have no past and no future in German; I can only speak in the present. While Germans say that they don’t like small talk, they are, in fact, rather chatty. So, in the supermarket, or in a restaurant, you’ll hear me saying things like “I live in Latvia four year and now I live in Berlin six week”. Still, they seem to understand – or at least they pretend that they do – even though my grammar and pronunciation are all over the shop.

So, I’ve been working away on Duolingo by myself, learning such useful expressions as “The dog has a horse” and “We are drinking the water”.

Yes, she did.
Yes, she did.

I’ve been flying through levels, earning Lingots left, right and centre. I breezed through basics, food, clothes, animals, phrases, plurals and adjectives, feeling smug that this German lark was so much easier than I’d expected – or maybe, just maybe, I was some kind of language whizz-kid and I’d never realised it before…

My confidence sufficiently boosted, I decided that, in order to really make progress, I would have to start taking proper lessons. So, I contacted a school that does evening classes and asked about the next available beginners’ course. I felt like I just had to add that I’d been studying online as well – just so they knew that I wasn’t their average hopeless beginner.

The nice lady said that as I had previous German experience, I should take a placement test. Ha, no problem – their puny German test would be no match for my awesome language skills. You’d think that by the ripe old age of 36, I’d have more sense. And more humility.

My ego deflated slightly as I was taking the test – I’d say I understood around 10% of it. Still, as it was multiple choice, I figured I had to be right at least some of the time. What would my result be? I was excited to have my genius acknowledged.

Five, yes, FIVE out of forty.
Five, yes, FIVE out of forty.

You read it correctly – 5/40. Scheiße. And they even said “Congratulations!” – though I’m not sure what for. I got a fit of the giggles when I read it, and reminded myself not to be so damn cocky in future. My German sucks. I now have that in black and white.

But it will get better – this is as much of a certainty as the smell of weed that hits you every time you walk out of the train station at Warschauer Straße. My course starts on the 4th of November and, of course, I’m secretly hoping to be the best in the class.

Let’s hope I learn German faster than I learn life lessons.