Yes, the class is 4 hours long and begins early in the morning 5 days a week. This will not deter me. I am a good student and I really want to do well. I need to learn these basics in order to start talking to people.
I take the S41 to the U8, walk a block and a half, and show up early and ready to learn. There are maybe 14 people in the class from all over the world. a guy from Scotland, someone from France, a girl from Macedonia, a few other Americans, Spanish, Portuguese, a Kiwi. An international crowd. I can't tell if anyone else is excited. But I am.
The teacher is 15 minutes late. He is tall, thin, wears glasses, needs a haircut, and seems to lack any sense of joy. The humor he does have is backed by sarcasm. He is bored with his job. He wanted to have a prestigious, tenured position at a Universitat in Berlin. He wanted to translate great literary works, to have a few freshman who would bring him fruit, flirt with him, make him feel important. Instead he is teaching beginning German and doing by the book, teaching old-school style out of a tired text book.
Our workbook, Schritte +1, is as drab as the teacher, with canned dialogue that we read aloud. Here is a brief sample:
-Firma Teletee, Iris Pfeil, guten tag.
-Guten Tag. Mein Name ist Khosa. Ist Frau Söll da, bitte?
-Guten Tag, Herr...-Khosa.
-Entschuldigung, wie ist Ihr Mane?
-Khosa. Ich buchstabiere: K-H-O-S-A.
-Ah ja, Herr Khosa. Einen Moment bitte... Herr Khosa? Tut mir leid. Frau Söll is nicht da.
-Ja, gut. Danke. Auf Wiederhören.
-Auf Wiederhören, Herr Khosa.
All I can say is LANGWEILIG! (Boring!) And did I mention the guys sitting on either side of me both have the jimmy-leg? (Jimmy-leg: This unconscious jiggling of the leg that seems isolated to the male gender. It's a sort of fidget. Who knows why it happens? All I know is it is a bit disconcerting when one is surrounded by it. Like a mini earthquake just for me.)
I think this class is useful to a point, but the instructor doesn't correct our pronunciation or let us talk enough. It's all book work. Although I do need basics. My next step is to find a native German speaker does not speak much English (good luck in Berlin! Everyone speaks English here!)and wants to trade practicing English and Deutsch.
I will make it happen.
Language should be fun. True, it is a giant, but it can be an enjoyable giant. I am currently working on translating the original "Mack the Knife" (Die Moritat von Mackie Messer) into English (the literal meaning of the words, not the American lyrics) then memorizing the German, looking at the English and translating it back from memory. After I finish this I think I'll pick a monologue by Bertolt Brecht or Georg Büchner to tackle and go through the same process. Theatre and song are the way I learn other things, so why not German?
I have heard there are some very good teachers at the VHS. I, unfortunately, did not get one of them. But I will tough it out. Bored instructors have never sopped me from learning.