Monday, November 10, 2008

Language Learning

Right around the one-month mark, I finally got an email indicating that our German lessons at CF's office would finally be starting! I was relieved and horrified at the same time. I was hoping to function a bit better while out and about in Zürich, maybe read menus better and be able to transition a conversation on the street into English a little more smoothly than, "Uhhhhhh, sorry." But I was worried because everyone always says German is so hard to learn, plus most of Zürich is actually speaking Swiss-German anyway, and really, I just don't enjoy language classes like some people I know. The first week I not only had nerves to deal with but a miserable cold. I was blown away on the first day when people seemed to pick the pronunciation in mere moments. Since then I've learned that many of these people have taken the class before and either dropped out or have come back down to the "Absolute Beginners" level. Plus the large majority of them are working on their third (at least) language, if they can learn English as a foreign language than German probably seems easier.

My pronunciation is awful, but I can already understand signs and announcements better. It's almost sort of annoying how many words I can pick up in public, but not quite enough to know what someone is saying. I took some shirts to be dry cleaned and ended up charging the 30chf the order was going to cost. As I was being rung up the woman behind the counter said something to the woman who had just come in the shop and was standing behind me, I heard the word "dreissig" and wondered if they were making fun of me. Very frustrating! But at the next shop I went into I recognized the word "fragen" when someone approached me, so I knew they were saying to let them know if they have any questions so I thanked them. Baby steps.

We have class twice a week, our teacher is great but the text book? Not so much. To avoid showing a preference for any native language, it teaches German in German, I'm constantly flipping around in my notebook looking up words. Our class is made up of people from all over. On the day we learned to say where we had come from she kept having to write different country names on the board. By the time we got around the whole room the board was full and half the world was represented there. People seem rather impressed that we've been showing up to class so regularly when we're only here for a year. I struggle a little bit with the amount of time it requires every week (trekking to the office, going to class, and all the workbook pages I have started doing just to be prepared to participate in class), but for right now it seems like the right thing to do. However, we'll be back in the States for two weeks, I'll be back for a week, then I'll be gone another week, and then we'll have house guests and holidays... hopefully I can keep up enough so I can jump back in full force when things blow over.

It gets all the more interesting when you look at the big picture. The week we started German class I was also trying to use some Italian over the phone making lodging reservations for the following week, and then we went out to a Spanish restaurant and were confronted with German speaking Spaniards... I can't tell you how confused I get sometimes! I end up wondering how well I know any language, even English. Well, we were going to speak some extra English that weekend; we had booked plane tickets to London!

1 comment:

Russ said...

The Swiss all have to learn Hoch Deutsch in school, so learning "standard" German in Switzerland is fine. Most of the vocabulary is the same, too.