The intensive language class started the second week of October. The class began with me, Pablo and Carlos. Pablo is from Spain. Carlos is from Cuba. Pablo spoke a little english and Carlos spoke none. Instead he wore these pants:
Pablo came to Germany to find work. His career path is in the restaurant business. His best days were when we talked about food. He also did well at the restaurant role play.
Later Angie from Morocco joined my class. And then I moved into a class with four young women. My last group totally excelled and made me feel like a loser because they remembered all the crap that I kept forgetting.
1. German is hard.
Germans who find out that I’m studying German shake their head and sigh because there is absolutely no way as adults that they would want to learn all the crazy articles and masculine, feminine or neutral identifications. So I began realizing that it may be impossible for me to learn German. I will admit that I thought I’d have a basic working knowledge after a few months of immersion. I was naive. I liked it that way. Reality is a bummer sometimes.
2. Learning German is fun.
I will never know German. I get frustrated and I feel very dumb sometimes. But really, it’s just fun to learn something new. I never imagined myself back in a classroom, listening to presentations, accepting handouts, and doing homework again. And liking it. So reality is also excellent sometimes.
3. Teachers really do make all the difference.
I recently read a research summary about education by Eric A. Hanushek orginally published in Education Week (April 6, 2011). His research shows that a good teacher can dramatically improve a student’s performance. And from my little perspective of the world – he is more than right. My teachers were very good. They improved my performance and earned my audience. So even knowing that I will never actually learn German I still want to attend. Insula Language School for Deutch and Spanish (www.insulakoeln.com) rocks.
4. Valleys, Mountains, Canyons and Peaks
I’m a happy learner. I’m smart and I’m focused. I’m on time and aside from the zillion times my babysitter gets sick I’m always present. And just like back in college, this isn’t so for everyone. Not everyone is happy, most people are late and there are vast differences in people’s abilities. This is a private school (read it costs money) and still people consistently show up late, get distracted or otherwise become unengaged. And they PAY for it. I’ve begun to deeply understand that learning is an ever changing landscape, and different for everyone.
I quit German class. One day Jonathan looked at me and said, “What the hell Sash, you don’t have to get a 4.0.” I was fitting a 30+ hour commitment into my week and becoming so focused on that I stopped having fun in most other areas of my life. Then I began working on a project for a real job and decided to train for a half marathon. Now I realize I will never, ever, really learn German. But I will love being in Germany. I will do good work. And I’ll be more fit than I’ve been in a very long time. Oh and I had time to go to Paris! Sometimes quitting is ok.