Friday, May 28, 2010

Still on

My story with the German language sounds too much like a sugary love story, with the perfect combination of serendipty and obstacles. And overcoming.

It all began when my vocal coach and I started a new Lied by Mozart, "Warnung", and then "Abendempfindung". Mozart is good for singing students, and I particularly love his songs. And that Jessye Norman's interview I had read several years ago still echoed in my mind. She was giving concerts in Brazilian cities and the newspaper my father subscribed to asked her if she was singing anything in Portuguese, to which she replied, "oh no, I'm sorry but I only sing in a language I can speak, it's more honest with the audience". So I figured that if I was going to sing in German, it would be less than artistic to do so without an understanding of what I was saying--and no, a translation in mind wouldn't do.

So, serendiptiously, a friend on Facebook invited me to this language learning online community still in its Beta version and free, Livemocha. They had an online course that wasn't really that good, but the community was vibrant, helpful and thriving. People actually helped each other without any expectation of reward. On there, I made several new friends, some of which recommended me further sources and tools, and I got from Ina, a German teacher of her native language in Paris, the heads-up for Deutsche Welle, which along with its amazing, free courses and podcasts (that I use to this day), became one of my favourite playgrounds in the web. I was with the Deutsch Interaktiv course for less than a year, but I completed the whole thing. During this time, I also had a language exchange with my German friend Tatjana, and after a whole year learning together, we flew to Zürich for Europride, and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the locals in German, and did pretty well.

Now, all of this was between Summer'08 and Spring '09. In May '09 I took an entrance exam at the local language school here in my neighbourhood (language learning in Europe is so cheap, convenient and easy!). Nobody I told, not even myself at first flush, could believe the results: after one year without classes or presential courses, they gave me the fourth year of the whole six-year program, corresponding to level B1.2 of the Common European Framework for Languages!

I was so enthusiastic about German now, that I resolved to make it the center of my life. Everything else I had invested in didn't work, but German did, and so smoothly that I didn't have the heart to deny a single second of my free time to this beautiful, beautiful language. So I invested the whole Summer in taking yet another course on Deutsche Welle's website, and got ready for another year of immense headway.

Then came Autumn, and because I had been unemployed, the Spanish government gifted me with a free course in Webdesigning. The course, aimed at unemployed people, was fulltime and every single day of the week, and I couldn't go to the language school until well into December. But I never let go of the position there, waiting for me.

When I finally managed to receive my first live lesson in German ever, I left the classroom with mixed feelings. I was much more able to speak and communicate in the language than I had imagined, and with real books and a class structure, I had such a marvellous nourishing environment that as a language teacher myself I knew would be extremely beneficial to me. But the teacher was an idiot. So were all of my classmates.

Of course, the whole thing by then had affected my ego, but the way my peers at school, teacher and fellow students, behaved was so disheartening that it was hard for me to adapt to that. I held my ground and exercised my patience, but also spoke only German during the class, brought always my monolingual dictionary with me, handed in all homework on time, arrived punctual, seized every second of every lesson, kept track of time and goals of every exercise, joined all group activities with a vision of learning and camaraderie. Even though none of the colleagues did so. And even though the teacher discouraged it.

Now the course has come to an end. Wednesday was our last class, and we were left with 40% of the book/contents blank and untouched. And the friends were confused. And the teacher was looking like a failure in front of the class. And I was a bit brokenhearted, since I had been living a romantic dream with those lessons, not just a chore.

They spent the whole year messing around and letting it all down the drain. Over these last couple of weeks, they were asking me for private lessons while waiting for the teacher, always late. I gave them. Now I'm sure until the final examinations, in middle of June, I'll have them ask me again. But I'll refuse this time. I don't need to feed their bad habits. They need to ask that from the teacher, not from a friend they laughed at. I need to focus and work on the contents that weren't taught in class, so that I don't miss this opportunity and fail in the finals. We've got much to study. I want to pass, and I know how to do this. I have done before.

I know this is the next hurdle, and I'm ready for it.