Friday, January 08, 2016

German language acquisition

My experience with German so far has been quite an interesting journey.  When we originally talked about moving to Germany in June of 2014, I really quickly realized that because of our timing I did not have time to take any kind of German class in Pittsburgh.   Thus, I arrived in Germany having ZERO experience to the point where I didn’t even know how to pronounce certain letters of the alphabet.  We arrived in the last week of October (a little over a year ago) and with trying to get things settled (school, house, etc.) my German classes didn’t start until January.  I am really happy  that as part of Chris’ contract we both got private classes.  My original teacher was about as German as you get and I think she did a great job teaching me basic of German but she also had some little nuances that weren’t ideal for me.  For example, she had a heavy Hessian accent (area where we live) – it’s kind of like learning English with Pittsburgh accent, yinz!  Nothing against accents but not ideal when learning a language.  The other thing that didn’t work for me is that I had to give her 24 hour notice if I needed to cancel the class or I forfeited the class.  While I agree with that policy in general, I had to cancel 2 classes in the morning because Anton woke up sick, with one of those times he was in the hospital.  But she give me a great start!

Now switching story a bit to Chris – his German hasn’t gone quite as great in big part because he doesn’t have enough time in the day or week to dedicate to learning it.  Also, looking at his textbook I have to admit it looked incredibly intimating.  He had a different teacher and while from what I undrerstand from Chris she was really nice, he just never really got into it.  Of course, it also kind of matters that he works in the English-speaking company while I am trying to navigate this German thing and have to start every conversation with “sprechen Sie English?”  Even when people answer “no” I still need to try and talk to them L To make a long story short – Chris realized that he is really not using his classes productively and we inquired whether his classes can be transferred to me. It worked and I got additional 10 90 minute private classes.

So that brings us to now … My new teacher, ironically, is Russian.  One of her first questions was 1) how much experience with German do I have and 2) do I have motivation to learn it.  Yes, I do have motivation to learn it because in general I like learning and I like languages.  She took that and now as we repeat some stuff we are also going at a somewhat fast pace.  We also don’t have set time so sometimes I have 1 class a week and sometimes it’s 3 classes a week which is kind of great because it keeps a nice steady rhythm but also sometimes I get a break for 5 days to recharge.  A couple of weeks ago, she came and was trying to have a conversation with me – I was like “lady, my German vocabulary is that of a 2 or 3 year old, let’s keep our expectations realistic here” :)

Now on to the boys – Andrei and Ilya both speak and understand German; probably to different degrees but it’s hard for me to judge by myself.  Both of their teachers report no serious language issues.  Things are a little more complicated for Andrei since he has to catch up and extra grade worth of German material.  He has a special helper that does extra German with him 3 times a week and additionally he goes to 1st grade German twice a week.  On top of all of that we also hired a private tutor twice a week for Andrei.  

Anton is well … Anton!  He sees speech therapist once a week and occupational therapist once a week as well.  Speech therapist is happy with his progress in talking, occupational therapist who is also working with him on speech is not as happy but she is working with him more through games and active physical exercise.  He understands German but is still a bit slow to speak.
Chris and I were out and about in Frankfurt practicing our German (sans kids!)

Goofing off at home


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Maria Knorr said...

Thank you both very much for the great and inspiring comments!