Thursday, March 9, 2017

My week: March 5 ed.

This was the highly dreaded anticipated week when I was supposed to go on the radio to promote an organization. I've never done such a thing before and I think my voice sounds dumb so there was some anxiety on my part. After putting together some notes, and even a quiz for the DJ to take about the organization*, I did some metaphorical breathing into a bag to compose myself, only... find out that our radio spot was canceled. I regretted this because there was some special programming that I wanted to highlight. Plus I had some rather dramatic feelings about the whole thing and I had finally screwed up enough courage and just wanted to get the darn thing over with.** How anticlimactic!

However, can I also say that I feel lucky to have opportunities where I get to move out of my comfort zone, promote topics I care about, and add new skills? Even if one such skill might only include trying not to sound like an idiot while being broadcast.

Anyway, many other things happened during the week, too. I met up with tandem partner #2; we hadn't seen each other since before the holidays because we'd both been so busy. We probably won't see each other for quite some time again because we are both having a busy upcoming month.

I also met with my original tandem partner. I'm preparing to take the B2 telc German test; this week, I described a book I've read and even timed myself. From this exercise, I learned that I really need to get better at this. I think I'm going to write up several reviews and try to memorize them because I'm so bad at speaking in German off the cuff in a more formal context.

German class met this week, as usual. An out of the ordinary activity is that I signed up to take the telc B2 German test. There's no turning back now! I had considered taking the preparation course too but now I'm on the fence about it. The telc test is already expensive enough (around 150 euros) and the prep course costs about the same. 300 euros to prepare for and to take a test that I don't officially need for anything is seeming a bit unreasonable at this point. Last fall, my VHS teacher told me that I could pass the B2 test even before I'd finished all the classes in that level and a month ago my Uni teacher told me that she thought I could pass it so maybe the prep course would be overkill. I've downloaded some of the free prep materials from telc and will see how those go.

For work, I planned a networking meeting with colleagues from various locations and organizations. One of the participants was talking about bringing a special exhibition to the area and expressed some interest in including it in the local community. I have met the leadership at two different German organizations and offered to make an introduction for her. My colleague is German herself and said that she can't believe how integrated into the community I've become and that she thought it was great that I know our professional counterparts who work in the German community. I told her that it's because I'm nosy as heck so I've had the opportunity to meet people and learn more. :)

This weekend was the annual Pfennigbasar (more about the sale itself here). I volunteered, as I usually do, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Now that I'm conversational in German, I've hit my groove and experienced the sale more fully.

During my first volunteer shift, I was placed with two sweet French ladies, who spoke English in a lovely way. The only snag was that I was the only one who really spoke German, which is a bit unusual for an American to actually be (mostly) helpful in a foreign language, given that we're not known for such capabilities. For the most part I held my own, except for with the elderly German man who spoke Pfälzisch in a deep and quavering voice. Any part of that combination is difficult for me and when they're together, I just can't understand the person.

My next shift partner was a sweet Polish lady who spoke no English but did speak German. This is a great exercise for me because I couldn't be lazy and fall back to English. We enjoyed good conversation and a pleasant shift together.

I spent my last shift with some women I had met in another group for a cooking demo. They welcomed me warmly and were excited to reunite after our last meeting. I have decided to join their club too so it was a good opportunity to ask more about their activities. One of the women doesn't speak English so it was another good push to only speak German.

Can I just say (again) how cool it is, after years of gnashing of teeth, studying, and whining, to finally be conversational in a foreign language? Connecting with people, experiencing the local culture, and becoming active in the community are just so different -- and awesome -- now.

For example, I wouldn't have felt right trying to join their club if I couldn't speak German. They're a very nice group of women and I doubt that they would have been unwelcoming to a non-German speaker, but it probably wouldn't work out well to join the group because they don't speak English during the meetings. It would not really be reasonable to ask them to translate everything.

I also really enjoyed being able to be actually helpful at the Basar. If the German speakers had to leave the booth, they could, because I could manage on my own.

When I got home, I received a phone call from my friend R, whom I haven't seen in ages. He was in the area and stopped by. I cooked up a huge pot of gobi aloo from a recipe our friend A taught me. That was an even better way to end the weekend.

*I got the idea from listening to one of their radio shows where they answer quiz questions about music. I had no idea if the DJ would've wanted to answer my questions, but I prepared some anyway because it's the Girl Scout Way. Or Boy Scout Way. Well, I'm not entirely if it's any Scout's Way, but whatever. I like to plan for contingencies.

**For things that are anxiety-inducing or are Really Big, I of course have to consider them in great length, discuss my feelings about them/confer with friends, family, and perhaps post office staff (okay, not always the latter), then consider them a bit more. Once I've done that, I'll basically just jump into the activity, which may seem rather sudden if one doesn't know the backstory.


  1. Gosh, I'm so jealous! I started a B2 class earlier this year but ended up quitting for several reasons. Now that I have a job, I can only take courses in the evenings, but I'm in a relatively rural area where nothing is offered late enough for me to attend. I can understand things so well, but when I have to speak, I usually end up getting mental knots in my brain halfway through my sentences, and then everything falls apart!

  2. We're lucky in that there's a university here which offers classes. I actually prefer their classes because they move along faster and the students have a very clear goal: they need to reach C1 fluency reasonably fast because they either need to pass the DSH or they need the German for their job.

    Also, Kaiserslautern is the biggest city in the area for about an hour each way, so we do have more options, but after B2 they really thin out. I'd like to go through C2 German. The uni offers C1 but not C2, so I'm going to see if I can talk them into offering the higher level class later. I'll see if I can "rustle up" a group of students. If that doesn't work, I'm going to look for a private teacher and will still try to pull together a group of students. I'm exceptionally stubborn and have been here long enough to make good contacts so I should be able to make something work.

    In your situation, what about looking for a local tandem partner? My skills really exploded after meeting with mine. Three years ago, I knew the grammar well, and could handle reading writing fine but listening and speaking were really bad for me. My first tandem partner picked me out and told me that I'd be meeting with her. Initially, I didn't want to speak in German because it was too hard. Now we have hour-long conversations. Or, you could try to get your spouse to only speak German with you (unless that's risking divorce? :)

  3. P.S. - If you're looking for some connections or ideas in your area, LMK. I just met someone from near Bitburg and she's really connected with the community. She might have some ideas for tandem partners, etc.

  4. My husband speaks German with me about 50% of the time when we're at home. And we only speak German when we're in public. His parents also only speak German with me, as well as their family friends in town. The problem, though, is that the conversations don't ever push me out of that B1 zone, if you know what I mean. It's daily life and personal stuff. There isn't that B2 move from talking about yourself to those outer topics like politics, religion, science...whatever. I read a lot of German from different kinds of sources, watch movies in German, etc., but I know myself, and I know that I will always be limited without formal learning.

    I'd love to hear more about your Bitburg contact, though. Maybe they know some options I don't!

  5. Ah, that's good that you practice somewhat regularly.

    For self study, you might want to try some of the Goethe books. They are more...collegiate maybe? They cover business terms, politics, a LOT on lodging formal complaints (maybe this is a reflection on German customer "service?" ha!), etc. This is the B2 level book: Erkundungen: Erkundungen B2. I like it much better than I like the Schritte and Aspekt Neu books because it's much better organized and not so "cutesy."

    I sent my contact a message to see if she could help and will let you know what she says.