Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth

Posted on 26.11.2009


I really enjoy my 2-month Intensive German class. So so much.

There are just some moments during each class that are excruciatingly painful, like pulling teeth. Cringe-worthy. A root canal might be more fun.

I forgot what it’s like to be in a class that might be somewhat easy for me but hard for others. I love that for me this is a great review and my German speech is coming back really quickly, but it’s really hard to sit there knowing 99% of the answers to the questions posed by the teacher. Really, really hard. I don’t want to be Hermoinie, always raising my hand and trying to answer. I’d rather give everyone else the chance to answer, get corrected, and learn. Just writing down the correct answer from someone else doesn’t help anyone to learn.

I don’t mean that it’s hard in a ‘wow I am so far ahead of everyone’ bragging way, moreso in a ‘dear lord at this rate how will this person survive in Germany?!?’ way.

For example: a new American guy just joined our class this week. We are in week 2, he missed five days of class. I don’t know why, I haven’t gotten to ask him, because every time we do happen to talk I just end up listening. He’s a really strong personality, really set in his ways, and loves to talk. And complain. Ug. Whatever. We only have 45 minutes (3 15-minute breaks) to talk to our classmates during class, aside from conversation lessons. Not a long time to suffer through.

So, he’s been here for ELEVEN months. ELEVEN. He is married to a German woman. They have kids together and live near her family. In class, he’s really struggling. How has he existed here for 11 months without taking a class? If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say that he just tried to come here and do the immersion thing, and that didn’t work, so then they tried the Rosetta Stone and that didn’t work, and after some time spent with the wife figuring out their options, they decided on a class. This is all I can logically consider without my head exploding.

I feel like SUCH a pain in the ass American whenever René has to stop and explain things to me, even though lately that isn’t happening too much. I catch the general conversation and then ask questions later. But I can’t fathom feeling that way, every day, not knowing a language for nearly a year. I couldn’t do it.

The poor guy is a writer, and it seems like he’s having a huge amount of trouble wrapping his head around the fact that the German language is one of the smallest languages in the world in terms of distinct words, while English is one of the largest in the same respect. There is only one word for beautiful, nice, pretty, well, great, gorgeous: that word is schon (missing an umlaut because I can’t find it on my board). German has very distinct and clear cut rules (like math), whereas English has very few boundaries. I can understand this dilemma, but even when I started learning German as a teenager it seemed really easy. It actually seems much easier now that I am an adult.

I have no idea how similar German is to Turkish or Polish, but I know that it feels really easy to me personally with English as my first language. I imagine for some people it’s a lot harder. A decent third of English words have a similar word in German that they came from.

I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone has had the same opportunities that I have had, and that we are all in this together.

…for at least a month.