Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dear Frau: My German Class Sucks!

Welcome to the first edition of Dear Frau. It's kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist.

This column will run every Thursday on One Big Yodel because I get a lot of good questions from readers via email and it's a shame not to share them so everyone can benefit. Anyhow, from now on, if you have a question, feel free to email me and maybe it will be featured in next week's Dear Frau.

Dear Frau,

My German class sucks. The students are unmotivated. The students are drunk. The students fall asleep during the lessons. What should I do?

Motivated Student

Wow. First off, to make myself feel better, I would read Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. He takes French lessons in this book and his class sucks too. Bonus: The book is in English and costs less than a German class.

Secondly, I wouldn't underestimate the power of being drunk. Personally, I find the more I drink, the better my German gets.

Thirdly (and most seriously), I would get a good luck charm. Because here's the thing: good language classes all come down to luck. You either get a good teacher and a good group of students or you get a bunch of people who like to pay to speak English.

That said, if you can afford private lessons, I have two good teachers I can recommend in the Zurich area and I'm happy to give out their contact info. One of these teachers smiles a lot (Italian heritage) and that's worth paying for in itself.

Also, Kathy, of Two Fools in Zurich, did a guest post on German learning a few months back. It might inspire.

But at this point, the Frau has run out of ideas. Anyone else have some advice? What should our motivated student do?


her said...

'Me Talk Pretty One Day" is hilarious! And our teacher brought homemade Sangria in one day and I was definitely a little bit more gutsy :)
I'm seriously considering taking an intensive course in Germany...I think that would give me a good base and help me to be more motivated to participate in my weekly class (which also isn't the greatest)
good luck!

Chantal said...

I took a 3-week intensive German course in December but it was almost too much. I couldn't take it all in and keep up with the homework. My brain felt fried. But I did find myself talking more easily after the class was over.

eponymousmoniker said...

I'll 'out' myself as the subject of this first "Dear Frau" lament (and vielen Dank for your responses!). I'm happy to report that the class drunk has been demoted to a lower level course, and as a consequence, the last few days have been much better and much more productive. I still won't be returning to that particular school next month, however. And I love that David Sedaris essay too. I think I laughed so hard I cried the first time I read it.

Kathy said...

Hi Chantal,
Thanks for the shout out.

I've been really happy with intensive classes at Bellingua. I would recommend the school, especially if your goal is to pass a Goethe Institute test.

I've been lucky too, with the same core group of great people and the same excellent teacher for the entire time.

I'm crispy fried at this point though and am taking a break from classes for a while.

Chantal said...

Thanks for blowing your cover! Hope you don't mind that I chose your question. I think it's a good one.

I'd say once you find a good teacher, stick with them until you're finally burnt out. I took for 2.5 years and then took a break.

Kristin said...

A language class drunk. lol. Never thought I'd type that line!

eponymousmoniker said...

The language class drunk in question was subsequently demoted not only because of a poor grasp of the language, but also in part because - no joke - he tried to hit on the teacher.

Chantal said...

Oh wow. A drunk and a womanizer. You had a great class!

Lori said...

Language is like a math equation - once you figure out the formula, you're on your way.

I like the idea of a student group, but I think private lessons are the best way to go.

Chantal said...

Another good way to do things is to hire a private teacher with several friends whom you know are not drunks. Then you can split the cost of the lesson while controlling all people involved in the learning process.

eponymousmoniker said...

There's a write-up of the incident now on my blog:

At least class was never boring. However, I am thinking more and more that private lessons may be the way to go!

Chantal said...

Thanks for the link and I'm glad to hear things have improved!

Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels said...

I have never ever attended a class where the students showed up drunk. Maybe consider filing a complaint? If you don't feel you are getting your money's worth because of the lack of discipline, ask for a refund and take your business - and willingness to learn - elsewhere. This isn't high school. (It isn't, right?)

La Belette Rouge said...

That is my favorite David Sedaris piece, "The rabbit of Easter he come with the chocolate" Hilarious!
I had a German nanny from infant to late toddler. I hear I was quite fluent, at least as fluent as a toddler can be. Then we moved and no more German nanny and there went my fluency.

Chantal said...

Yes, my favorite Sedaris piece as well!

It's funny how fluency changes from situation to situation.

And yes, German classes are so expensive in Switzerland that I would hope there's a way to get your money back if you're not satisfied.

Hattie said...

I learned German in Germany. No prob. They all speak it there, gladly.
Once I got to Switzerland, my German stopped improving.
I would suggest to anyone serious about learning German to spend some time in Germany at a German language school. And spend all the rest of your time chatting up Germans, who will be glad to talk your ear off. But don't let them practice their English on you!

Chantal said...

Hi Hattie,

I think if I had lived in Germany I would be really fluent by now. Alas, my German is ok, but nothing to write home about. Maybe someday I'll have a chance to live in Germany, who knows. Luckily I did make some German friends here, but they sure like to practice their English! It's always a language battle and I try not to lose every time!

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