As I’ve said before, I would like to learn German. Unfortunately the times that the Volksschule offers classes doesn’t quite work for me at the moment. So in lieu of “proper” lessons, I’ve been spending many nights meeting with an assortment of people for ‘Sprachduos,’ or language exchanges. Some of these people just want to speak English, but there are a few who have been quite strict about teaching me some German. But considering the way I’m earning my living here is teaching English, I’ve been trying to keep that on the down-low where my students are concerned. The first day of lessons I told them all that I don’t speak German, so there would be no translating in class from me. If they want to help each other out with vocab, I will allow that to an extent, but if it goes on for more than 30 seconds or so, I say something like, “German Red Card,” and that means it’s time to stop.
So why no German from me in class? Well, it’s not good enough for that yet, for one thing. But on the other hand, it seems that teachers just start translating sometimes, and if you take the TEFL course, they teach you that it’s not the most effective way to go about things. You can feel free to disagree, but I just don’t want to go down the translation road at this point.
I had at least one unpleasant experience in Prague that involved me taking over a class for all of 45 minutes before it imploded. To start, I was at a disadvantage because it was two women who were upset that their previous teacher (a very attractive young man from New Zealand), had left them. And secondly, someone at the language school told them that I spoke Czech. Which I most certainly do not. This young man from NZ had a Czech wife, and apparently just translated all the vocab (and most of the lesson) for them. So when I came in, I tried to do the standard lesson I was supposed to start with, and I could not get them out of the bloody dictionaries. They weren’t even trying to listen to me. They just read the book and tried translating every word. The fact that they were at level 2 was a joke. We lasted half a lesson, and apparently the teachers that came after me didn’t fare much better. I’m sure it works jolly well for some people, but the students I have now are good enough that we should be able to work it out without dictionaries. That’s what their classmates and teacher are for.
But I think some of them are on to me. One group in particular tends to have a lot of little discussions about vocab, etc. in German, and I usually understand most of what they’re saying. Maybe it’s because they can spot a little flicker of recognition in my eye when they say a word that I know. Damn reflexes. But I cleverly (not so much), try to cover it up.
For example, before class today one student was talking about her son’s English lessons, and how they had learned ‘pot.’ Pot in German is ‘topf,’ so she was saying that her son was really excited because it was close to German, and I understood most of her story. But I tried to cover it up by making her explain in English and then jokingly saying, “So if I want to learn German, all I have to do is reverse the letter order of the English word and stick an extra letter on it, and it should be close to the German word?”
They laughed at that, but the student who was telling the story got her “mom” look on and told me that she thinks I understand everything they say, because I always know what they’re trying to describe. I told her that was the point of it all, they describe the word as best they can, and I fill in the word they’re looking for. I was a bit tempted to scare them and bust out some German, i.e. “Ich verstehe alles,” (or, I understand everything), just in case they were thinking about talking Scheiße about me in class. But I resisted. And they wouldn’t. I hope. (knocks on wood)
So for now, the German learning stays on the secret side. I just better not leave my notebook full of random Sprachduo scribblings laying around…. it’s chock-full of very important words like:*
Mandel(en)= almond or tonsil (not quite as fun as herring/tent stake)
tollpatschig= clumsy (extremely important word for me)
ein Täto stechen lassen= to get a tattoo
Ich erinnere mich nicht= I don’t remember (also very important for me)
die Bügeleisen= iron (for clothes, not metal)
and these last three are in a row… no idea what this conversation was about…
die Menschheit= humanity
die Gesellschaft= society
der Schnee= snow
Talking about humanity/society falling apart in a snowstorm? Might have been….
On the other hand, maybe if my students could make any sense of out of the completely random words, grammar rules and ridiculous sentences, it would help me out. Maybe I should plant my notebook somewhere after all….
*Apologies re: any mistranslations or spelling errors. Sprachduo usually involves a drink and dim light so it’s subject to human error + alcoholic beverages. Or caffeine. Both dangerous.