Friday, April 17, 2009

German 101: Prerequisite- knowing German

I am finding that just living in a country does not make you learn the language by osmosis. You have to work at it. I need to work harder to learn German. I have progressed to the point that I am functional in survival situations- grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, pleasantries with the post man and the neighbors- but I cannot carry on conversations of any length or depth. Not surprisingly, this is necessary for the more meaningful human interactions in life! I like meaningful interactions.

So, I checked out the website for the community education center in Flensburg. I got really frustrated because of course, I couldn't read it very well. I figured out that there are several German classes offered but I didn't know which level I should take. I found the contact page and wrote a short (hopefully coherent) e-mail requesting guidance. Someone wrote back the same day giving me a phone number to call and make an appointment for a placement test.

Whoa! Phone call??? Excuse me? I'm supposed to pick up the phone and actually dial a number that requires me to then speak German to someone who answers it? Okay, okay, I get it. This is part of the test. Alright.

After I panicked and hemmed and hawed for two days (yes, it took me two days to work up the nerve) I wrote down some key words for my conversation and picked up the phone. The woman was very kind and patient with me. And she understood what I said. I think I understood what she said. I have a placement test on April 30th. Unfortunately, classes begin April 20. I'm not sure how that will work out but at least I passed the first part of my placement test!

I can't help but laugh at the irony of having to read, write and speak German to get into the class to learn German. This would not have been possible for me when I first arrived. I wonder how other people manage. It makes me more sympathetic to immigrants everywhere. How does someone know what is available? How do you access the services when you can't communicate?

This photo has nothing to do with learning German. I just like the image of these people and their horses who appear to be riding into the sea.

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