October 26, 2005

First Day of Class

Filed under: School, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 8:11 am

Yesterday was my first day of classes. I had three classes yesterday, two of them through the international studies program, and one regular university class. The first two went well; the latter not so well.

The first two classes, both ISP classes, are geared towards non-native speakers of German. They don’t speak English, but they do make sure to speak clearly, without strange accents, and without speaking in a high “intellectual” manner. The first class, “Ein Quasselkurs,” deals with German smalltalk and the differences between the German we had been taught in class and the way Germans actually speak it. It was a very interesting, and at times funny class, and I think I’ll definitely be enjoying it. The next class was called German Everyday Culture, and deals with German culture from a layman’s perspective–this isn’t Beethoven and Goethe, this is why Germans are such fanatical recyclers and what they do in their freetime. Again, this was interesting, and I had no trouble in the class.

The next class, my last class of the day, was an overview of medieval history. I love medieval history, and so was really looking forward to this, but the differences here in the German were far to great. While he spoke clearly, his sentences were so long and complex that I would often find myself understanding most of the individual words said, but not being able to get any meaning out of them. My brain was in overdrive the whole time trying to keep up, but in the end I walked out two hours later with three lines of notes on my paper. Not a good sign. And given that to get my grade (the German school system doesn’t require grades quite the same way the US system does) I’ll have to take the final, and that this will 100% be the decider of my grade, I don’t think this class is going to work out. I’m looking for another to replace it, but I’m not sure I’ll be successful. Worst case, I’ll stick with my three ISP classes and just have to take one extra class next semester.

Today, I have my third ISP class, “Panorama Deutschland,” another German cultural class. This one deals with things like the political systems here, differentiating itself somewhat from the other German culture class I’m taking. We’ll see how it goes–I’m not expecting anything bad, but it’s three hours long, which might test my mental capacity translating German.

And one thing I’ve noticed is that the mental effort expended in understanding a foreign language makes you tired. I collapsed into bed yesterday after class, barely able to move. Hopefully this will change as my German improves–I don’t want to be nonfunctional at the end of every day.

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