Monday, July 02, 2007

Climbing Back on the Wagon

The wagon of those who would learn German, that is.

I've not set foot in a German class since March, when I completed the third of four levels of basic German. My schedule just hasn't been conducive to getting that final fourth of the basic levels in, allowing me to take the basic level exam and get a certificate for it. Because I use so little German in my day-to-day life (basically only at stores or restaurants or if someone asks me directions), class is the only practice I get, so I wanted to finish up the last of the basic grammar in an intensive course so I'd remember it from one class to the next.

This month I have no class in Mainz and no major travel planned until the end, so I signed up to take another month of intensive German. It's very expensive but thankfully Damon's fellowship program agreed to pay, or I would have been SOL. I went back to the same institute I've been going to all this time, thinking that I wouldn't have to test for my level and they'd just keep moving me up through their levels, since they know me and what I've taken.

Alas, that was wrong. I contacted them last Thursday about starting the course and they said to come in at 8:30 this morning to take a placement test. I thought this wasn't a good sign, but kept some hope that they were thinking I might have advanced during my three-month class drought rather than regressing due to lack of practice. So, I showed up for the test this morning. I thought the free writing section went okay - after all, if I didn't know how to word something, I could just write something else. The sentence-completing written portion was a little harder. The whole last page had things I don't think I have learned. The third page was full of things I knew I should know, but had mostly forgotten. I tried to push through it.

Then there was the oral segment. They had five of us in the room and two instructors, and just went around the room. The two people before me were just excellent, especially the first, who was really only there for fun at this point because his grammar was all perfect. Normally my public speaking is marginally good (last week I actually got an A+ on it in Mainz) but this was way too difficult with no German practice and an audience of seeming experts. I tried to play cute and people laughed, but it really wasn't funny when the teachers appeared crestfallen that I had spoken almost no German since walking out their door three months ago. I felt pretty embarrassed. It's not hard to get around without speaking very much. I've become pretty good at it. I can understand what I hear and usually that gets me by pretty well. I never thought I was a perfectionist before, and maybe I never was about anything before, but I am about this. I can't bring myself to say anything for fear it won't be perfect. I know I've addressed this in the blog before; it's nothing new.

I was afraid they would put me through basic level 3 again after my horrible performance. I had to return to the institute in the afternoon to find out my placement. And....they placed me in intermediate level 1! There were no other students at my level and they were left to choose between dragging me through basic 3 again, or bumping me up to intermediate 1 and hoping I keep up. Nice of them to have so much faith...but maybe they had no real choice, as I wouldn't have accepted going through basic 3 again, and would have taken my money to anyone who could promise me a basic level certificate by the end of July.

I guess I better start studying.


  1. i'll give you a certificate NOW, but it won't be good for anything ;)

  2. Blast.

    Always they hold out the carrot for me. Now they are telling me how great the certificate that I can get for completing the middle levels is. It requires taking a one or two day test at the Goethe Institut in Mannheim!


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