Getting up at 7.30 am on a Saturday when I was still really tired and in need of sleep, I started to think bad thoughts. Unhappy thoughts.
Look, every day this week I’ve come in from work with zero energy. Zero. That’s the same nearly every week: fact is that at the end of the working day I’m too tired to do useful stuff such as sit down with a German dictionary. I did my weekly “Hausaufgabe” at 8 am this morning before I set off to the Klubschule. Sure the course lasts two hours per week – but at the rate you’re going you simply aren’t going to be at a useful level of Deutsch come July. Hell, you’re practically throwing your money down the drain with these Beginners classes if you’re not going to be able to speak German at the end of them. Maybe you shouldn’t bother with a second Detusch course – it’s not like you’ll get your money’s worth. YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME WITH LEARNING GERMAN.
Then I get into the Deutschkurs and enjoy it. Again. We’re covering a lot more ground and useful grammatical material than the course I took in Edinburgh – Akkusativ & Objektiv are giving me a headache, but I like the atmosphere and content of the class. It makes Deutsch seem do-able. As far as I’m concerned the class is actually worth getting up at 7.30 am on a Saturday for.
What’s holding me back is the same thing that held me back with the Edinburgh course: trying to fit German around my life. It’s not like I have to fret about getting my degree, but work saps the energy out of you. It therefore becomes harder for me to motivate myself to do the things I talked about in my previous articles. Thus my time spent learning German is limited to Samstag. Which isn’t nearly enough.
Given my intern’s salary (although adequate, isn’t exactly excessive) can only stretch so far – should I stop spending money on non-fruitful German lessons and divert funds towards stuff I would appreciate, like travelling? After all, I am surviving in Switzerland with my English, and will continue to do so until July 2012.
No. Not necessarily.
Reason A. I don’t want to be the kind of person who moves to a foreign country, lives in a foreign country and makes no effort to integrate. Ten years later those people still can’t speak the local language. That isn’t the kind of person I am, nor who wish to become. I want to be the kind of person who at least will make an effort to reach conversational fluency. Why else am I in this country?
Reason B. Speaking a second language is a nice little thing to have on your CV. Even if I don’t plan on returning to Switzerland, a knowledge of German could come in handy elsewhere…
Reason C. It takes most people the best of a year…or more, to pick up a language properly. I shouldn’t be too impatient or harsh on myself.
Reason D. The problem certainly isn’t in my inherent lack of ability to pick up languages – I’m sure I have about the same natural ability as anyone else on this planet – it’s to do with the circumstances in which I’m attempting to learn the new language. Circumstances I’m not exactly powerless against.
When I went to the Surrealism in Paris exhibit a week or so ago, several of us went out for a meal afterwards. One of the chaps – one of those incredibly international people who had worked on every continent – described how he had learnt German over the course of about 4 months in a 5-day-per-week intensive course. Sadly (for me at least) it was paid for by his employer. And tragically, his employer isn’t my employer. But yes, this illustrates the point that if you take intensive German classes you pick up the language really quickly. The fact that this chap already knew several languages helped him too, I’m sure…
So, this afternoon I sat down and looked at the Migros Klubschule website for the next set of German classes, beginning in early 2012 when my current course finishes. In my mind I had to balance out a lot of things:
- Classes once a week isn’t enough.
- I doubt I’m going to be allowed to have time off work to go to classes. I don’t think I’m able to register for what would count as a “professional development” course because I’m an intern. I know German classes are offered by my company, but I don’t think they’re in partnership with the Migros Klubschule.
- I’d like to use my flexi-time and holiday allowance for fun & exciting travelling stuff. Not taking day-time German classes. I don’t think I could cover a full German course that way, even.
- I don’t want to be running across town between work and classes. It’ll reduce my productivity and focus in both.
- I have Basel Dragons training on Monday and Thursday night. I really, really like the Basel Dragons – it’s exercise AND a social life. I want to maintain my quality Dragon-time at all costs.
- I’m usually tired in the evenings, and attending night classes is probably going to knacker me. That was my experience in Edinburgh, remember?
- …Damn, I am going to end up doing night classes, aren’t I?
I am going to do night classes.
It fits the vast majority of my requirements, though. Wednesdays & Fridays from 6.10pm to 8pm. On most days I leave work by 4.30pm. While I may not have the time to go home between work & class, I won’t be in a rush to get from work to the Klubschule. If I’m smart enough to organise packed teas, etc then things should work out fine.
In the meantime I have come up with a formalised timetable for evening work on German. The more formalised the plan, the more likely that I will set aside enough reserves of energy & time to actually stick with it.
I’m currently using Blick Am Abend as my source of “free written German”. So far it’s been quite useful – I reckon I can get a lot out of it (translating, identifying Nominativ & Akkusativ in the text, finding new words). Then try writing Word Lists (e.g. colours, pets, emotions) and Verb Tables. Then try to listen to some German and write some grammatically-correct sentences. I also want to set aside definite time for dealing with the course homework and refreshing myself on what we learned in the previous class. Once I start making space in my life for the learning, it should become easier to maintain alongside all my other stuff…
It’s up to me to make learning German worth it, after all…