I was enrolled in an intensive German course during the first couple weeks I was here. It was two hours and for two weeks I would sit among my fellow students and practice rolling this new language around in my mouth like a hot piece of food. The most interesting thing about this course was that everyone came from a different country. Nations represented included: Greece, Russia, Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Romania. I was not only the single American in the room, I was also the youngest, by about 12 years. I only know this due to the day we learned numbers and how to say how old we are. The only common language in the class was German, therefore that’s primarily all that was spoken. English floated around every once in a while when someone who spoke it asked for clarification. One such student was Ba’bis from Greece. I don’t want to get cocky but I have small suspicion he had a crush on me. A couple times I saw him making eyes at me and I quickly averted mine. He also was always asking me questions during the “interview” portions of class and volunteered to be my partner. I told the Mom about this thinking it was funny and she replied, “Stay away from the Greeks,” looked up toward the sky for a minute, turned and walked away. I guess I won’t ask about that one. And anyway, I learned he is vierundfunfzig jahre alt (54 years old) so I don’t think I’ll be getting his number any time soon. Another interesting character in this class happened to come from Turkey. She sat next to me in our “U” shaped arrangement and was constantly talking over people to answer questions and correct others’ mistakes. She had a tendency to scowl at students and direct her nose just a tad too high in the air. I’m sure it’s the teacher in me, but I had a hard time sitting next to this gal who constantly had to make her presence as “Best Student in the Beginner Level” known. Come on, girl, we are all amateurs. Besides, people learn when they make mistakes; give them a chance to do it wrong so they can understand how to fix it in the future. Man, just talking about it is getting me worked up.
The reason I bring this up is because I had my placement test for my next German class today. I hiked over to Oerlikon to take a multiple choice exam so they could determine to which subset of “Novice” I should go. The proctor instructed me to stop whenever I felt I couldn’t go on and that I had 30 minutes to finish. The first couple of questions were great: which sentence of “My name is _______and I come from _______” was correct; filling in the blank with the correct form of “you.” For the briefest of moments I thought I was going to do pretty well. Then I got to question 8. Things got a little hairy from there. I really had to think about the questions and use the tiny pictures by the questions to derive context clues. By question 20 my brain was exhausted and I swear a small sweat-stache was forming on my upper lip from concentrating so hard. I returned to the teacher and let her grade my paper. I earned a startling 10/20. I’m a little impressed given that it’s been 7 weeks since my last formal class. She made a tsking sound as she finished grading and consulted the class-assignment card. “Did you try the last ones at all?” she asked. “Hm, no, I thought I was going to pass out. But I could try them if you want.” “Well, really you need 11 correct to go to the next level but you seem like a quick learner so I’m going to go ahead and bump you up.” How could she tell I was a devoted scholar? Perhaps she is a clairvoyant? Or maybe she imagined me plucking my eyebrows out as I sat through yet another entry level class. In any case, I should hopefully be starting more German classes soon. I can’t wait to regale you with my tales from schule, probably with the enthusiasm of a first grader getting off the bus in the afternoon. As for me now I have a free weekend ahead of me and haven’t quite determined how I’m going to spend it.