I’m on sabbatical this spring, but I decided to take a German course, since I am hoping to spend part of the summer in near Kassel visiting a forty-year-old intentional community, Neiderkafungen. It also seemed like a good idea to get back into the classroom every once in a while, even though I’m not really learning something new (I took many years of German as a high school and college student).
So I dutifully went at 2:00 with my backpack, trying to blend in a little, dressed as my version of a student in jeans, tennis shoes, etc. I sat in the back, out of the way, and luckily I was not the only non-traditional-aged student in my corner of the classroom. This was after I went to the bookstore and found out how much the textbook — not even a book, but the photocopied pages! was going to be. Ouch! I know books are way more expensive than they used to be, I’ve bought books for my own college-aged son, but it’s good to be reminded of what a visceral gut punch that can be, especially if you’re not sure if you’re going to “need” this course. (I didn’t buy it yet. I’m going to look on Amazon.)
The class went well, I thought — I could understand pretty much every word the professor was saying. We played a little game of “Drei Verheiten, eine Luge” and I handled that just fine (three truths — I’m a professor here, it’s been twenty years — at least– since I spoke German regularly, and I am hoping to go to Germany this summer. The lie was I hadn’t seen Star Wars). Still, my German is very rusty and my reaction time, at 48, is quite a bit slower, which means that even though I understood the words it is taking me longer to PROCESS what they mean. Language professors, too, speak slower and more distinctly than actual Germans do, I’ve found, so what may seem doable in the classroom breaks down a little moving through German society. We watched a video, at normal German language speed, and even with a written transcript it was hard to follow. It’s going to be work for me, which is a good thing. There’s nothing being out of your comfort zone in the classroom to help remind you of what one’s students sometimes go through.