How I learned German (A Bilingual Text)

Im Januar 2015 habe ich angefangen, Deutsch zu lernen. Bevor ich “German 1001” an der Georgia State University hatte, wusste ich nicht, wie man eine Fremdsprache effektiv lernt. In der Schule habe ich Französisch gelernt. Meine Französischlehrerinnen waren toll, aber damals dachte ich nicht, dass ich eines Tages eine Fremdsprache wirklich sprechen werde. Als ich mein Studium begann, entdeckte ich Linguistik. Nach meinem ersten Linguistikkurs bemerkte ich, dass ich mich für die Grammatik und Struktur von Sprachen interessierte. Ich musste eine Fremdsprache für mein Studium sowieso lernen, und ich habe mich für Deutsch entschieden, weil meine Großmutter (väterlicherseits) aus Deutschland kommt. Von zweisprachigen Menschen war ich immer beeindruckt, und ich wollte endlich eine zweite Sprache sprechen.

In January 2015, I started learning German. Before I had “German 1001” at Georgia State University, I wasn’t sure how one learns a foreign language effectively. During (secondary) school, I learned French. My French teachers were awesome, but I didn’t think back then that I would one day actually speak a foreign language. When I started my university studies, I discovered linguistics. After my first linguistics course, I noticed that I was interested in the grammar and structure of languages. I needed to learn a foreign language for my major anyway and I decided to learn German because my (paternal) Grandmother is from Germany. Bilingual people had always impressed me and I wanted to finally speak a second language.

Am Anfang hatte ich einen schrecklichen Akzent, und ich war manchmal verwirrt mit der Grammatik. Es gibt 16 Arten von the im Deutschen! Ich habe natürlich Fehler gemacht, aber ich wollte immer mehr lernen und meine Kenntnisse verbessern. Im Kurs habe ich viele Fragen gestellt, und meine Notizen wiederholt. Anscheinend hat es mir auch geholfen, auf Deutsch zu denken. Als ich zu Fuß gegangen bin, formulierte ich Sätze und versuchte meine Umgebung auf Deutsch zu beschreiben.

In the beginning, I had a horrible accent and I was sometimes confused with the grammar. There are 16 words for the in German! I naturally made mistakes, but I wanted to always learn more and improve my skills. During class, I asked many questions and I repeated my notes. Apparently, it helped me to think in German. When I walked around, I created sentences and tried to describe my surroundings in German.

deutschlandkarte_big

Dann bin ich zum ersten Mal ins Ausland gereist. Ich hatte einen vierwöchigen Deutschkurs beim Goethe- Institut in Schwäbisch Hall. Obwohl ich viel Englisch gesprochen habe, war viel Deutsch in meinem Umfeld. Ich wurde inspiriert, Deutsch zu lernen, weil viele Europäer mehrsprachig waren und gute Tipps hatten. Als ich zurück in die USA gekommen bin, wechselte ich mein Hauptfach zu Deutsch. Ich lernte Deutsch gleichzeitig an GSU und beim Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta. Einzelunterricht dort war ein Schlüsselerlebnis. Ich verwendete Grammatikbücher, und suchte nach allen möglichen Quellen zum Deutschlernen

Then I went abroad for the first time. I had a four-week German language course at Goethe-Institute in Schwaebisch Hall. Although I spoke a lot of English, there was a lot of German in my environment. I became inspired to learn German because many Europeans were multilingual and had good tips. When I got back to USA, I changed my major to German. I learned German simultaneously at GSU and at Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta. Individual lessons there were a key experience. I used grammar books and searched for all possible resources to learn German.  

Im April 2016 habe ich die B1 Prüfung abgelegt und bestanden*. Ich war bereit, wieder nach Deutschland zu reisen. Im Mai hatte ich einen B2 Kurs in Mannheim, und es war erwartet, dass man nur Deutsch im Kurs sprach. Es war eine Herausforderung, Deutsch im Alltag zu benutzen. Manchmal war ich sehr schüchtern und leise, aber ich habe genug gesagt, um klar zu kommen. Danach schrieb ich oft auf Deutsch und drehte Vlogs, um mein Sprechen zu üben.

In April 2016, I took and passed the B1 Exam*. And I was ready to travel to Germany again. In May, I had a B2 level German course in Mannheim and it was expected that we only spoke German in class. It was a challenge to use German in every day life. Sometimes I was very shy and quiet, but I said enough to get by. After that, I wrote in German often and made videos to practice my speaking.

Jetzt höre ich die Nachrichten auf Deutsch. Und ich lese sehr gerne auf Deutsch. Außerdem beschäftige ich mich mit dem Vokabelnlernen. Wenn ich ein neues Wort höre, schreibe ich es mit einer Definition und einem Beispiel auf. Und ich benutze Vokabelnlisten von Deutsch Perfekt und Deutsche Welle, um meinen Wortzschatz zu erweitern. Ich versuche Lücken in meinen Kenntnissen herauszufinden, und die deutsche Grammatik Schritt für Schritt, auswendig zu lernen. Das war’s!

Now, I listen to the news in German. And I enjoy reading in German. Apart from that, I keep myself busy learning vocabulary. When I hear a new word, I always write it down with a definition and an example. And I use vocabulary lists from Deutsch Perfekt and Deutsche Welle to widen my vocabulary. I try to find gaps in my skills and learn German grammar (by heart) step by step. That’s it.

Thanks for reading! As you see from my story, learning a language is a long process that requires motivation, regularity and some kind of system. Some days you love it and other days you’re just frustrated. Start small, get practicing, find some good resources and actually use the language somehow (like with a language partner). It’s good to have a teacher, but you also have to teach yourself the language. It’s also important to know why you are learning the language in order to keep yourself focused and to concentrate on what’s most important/useful for you personally. No one studies an entire language in three months. A language is learned step by step–word by word–level by level.

All the best and good luck with your language-learning! If you are interested in more tips on how to effectively learn foreign languages go here 🙂 –> Language Learners‘ Toolbox

Stephanie F.

*My current German level is C1/C2. I hope to take the C1 exam before I leave Germany and pass the C2 exam within the next year or two.

English tutor in Germany~ the program, what I do, and my current thoughts

I have already given ten lessons to the original group of students as well as three lessons with a newly-organized second group of students. When I first arrived in Erlangen, I had a lot of free time and wanted to make use of it. I also wanted to find some experience as an English teacher in Germany. I have accomplished that. But it has been a lot more work than expected. I receive an honor wage for teaching during the hour. The wage is based on how many students (2-6) and how long the lesson lasts (45 minutes- 1 hour- 90 minutes). With transportation costs, I only get to keep half of it. Travelling also costs me a lot of time. Half of my day is spent travelling there, giving a lesson and coming back. Although I felt good working with the students when they tried and—apart from a few bad attitudes—the students were nice to me and even curious about who I am and what I do, planning two lessons each week, spending two of my days each week for travelling and teaching, and not having more time to travel for fun around Germany and Europe and engage in other hobbies has really built up stress in me the past few weeks.

The program was excited to have a native English speaker volunteering with them. However, because both groups are mixed from different grade levels (5th, 6th and 7th graders- ages 10-14), I am responsible for managing a classroom with different levels of maturity and different levels of studies. I could have spoken more with the teachers to find out what they found most important for our lessons, but I realized too that maybe the students are already bored with what they learn in class and would rather do something new but still related to class lessons. I was given no plan, no books and no materials. I have purchased a few books to help me with teaching grammar and vocabulary. I got a suggestion from the program coordinator to have games prepared in case they get bored and that is all I can do for the rest of the lesson. She also suggested that we have some sort of routine like listening to a song at the start of each lesson. I have used games, but I have switched it up with the routine. The goal of me giving English lessons to the students was to teach them basic English and improve their confidence when using the language. Some of the other volunteers work with just a few students from one class and can work a bit closer with the teacher. They also have to prepare the lessons (Math and German language) since it is not a strict lesson plan like in traditional class, but they also can help the students with their homework or direct topics that they learn.

My second group has been studious; they are more mature and have obviously tried before in their English class. I plan a lesson for them and it goes smoothly. In the beginning, I also liked planning the lessons for the first group. But the first group (even though they like talking with me) seem to have little interest in learning, in languages and they are easily distracted—whether it is because they have problems concentrating or because they get bored. On top of that, they are very talkative and when one pupil is not having it, others quickly join in. Sometimes I also think that they are afraid to try because they don’t care or are afraid to make mistakes—maybe they even feel stressed about school and would rather be nonchalant. One to two hours of work goes into planning each lesson and when the students only put 50% of work in the lesson (barely doing enough to finish it), it doesn’t matter that I am a native English speaker or how fun the lesson is. I don’t mean to imply that my first group of students hadn’t learned any English before. They all have different strengths and interests. I didn’t get to cover as much material with the first group as I wanted since I have only enough time and mental capacity to plan one lesson each week and will just being taking on the second group for the rest of the school year. The first half of the program ends in March and I am not sure if the first group gained much from our lessons, but I need a break from worrying myself about lesson planning for two classes. I also want to add that this has been a great opportunity for me to practice my German since I do teach the lessons in German and the pupils speak to me in German. My German still isn’t perfect, and I may even do a post about some of the difficulties I face as an advanced student of German in everyday Germany.

Well, that was an update about my role as an English tutor/teacher in Germany. Below I will share some additional information about the program I am volunteering with. Hopefully, I can start writing about the individual lesson plans and how they went soon. I have taken good notes about the lesson plans and have materials still ready on my computer, so I should be able to share some useful information for English tutors in Germany or teachers in general.
• I filled out an online form providing them with my bank information for the payments. That was on the same online platform where I upload the monthly log of lessons in order to receive payment.
• After each lesson, we write what we did, who was present/absent and we need an official signature. All the paperwork is stored in a large binder in the secretary’s office at the school. We take photos of the paperwork and upload them online at home.
• I had to sign a contract with the program.
• The program lasted longer than the university, so I am still giving lessons in the middle school during my university break here.
• During the kick-off informational session at the school, we got paperwork with emergency numbers and school rules. We also got some forms to fill-out. One was as a background check to get from the city hall. Another was if we had ever been a part of any extremist groups. We also got some forms that we can use when a pupil has an unexcused absence or really disrupted the class.
• Before the kick-off session at the school, I went to an informational seminar that explained the program, what was expected and what benefits there are for being a part of the program.
• Because they had to plan the English class extra, I started three weeks late with the first group and didn’t get a second group of students until mid-February whereas I started with my first group in December.
• Finally, here is the program’s website. It is in German, but I have already covered most information =)
https://www.zfl.fau.de/praxis-theorie/lernfoerderung/

To conclude, it is a great program that allows university students who want to work in education to gain practical experience. Pupils receive extra support in the school that they wouldn’t be able to receive otherwise. The community is brought closer. Everyone in the program and at the school have been helpful and friendly.

Thanks for reading,

Stephanie F.