Last autumn I signed up to German lessons. I was excited oh-ever-so -excited. After quite some thorough research carried out during rainy Sunday afternoons, I located just the right language school. It was a cooperative-style outlet, which meant they provided affordable lessons for people in idealistic need, as my ambiguous and morally untidy self was at the time.
It will be fun. How cool and alternative and laid back.
The first day arrived.
No nerves. Why would there be any nerves?
If only I was still five and waiting by the solitary tree, serene like a dark brown and green post-modern statue, standing solo in the pavemented school courtyard. I am serious, but I do not want to cry. The school teacher shouts out. Nina, come over, are you enjoying your first day at school? I try to smile, but instead, I purse my lips in unknowing hopelessness.
The Münster-born teacher began with some very informal introductions, which suited me just fine. There were three other students besides me. A young couple dressed with millennial-communist attires – they were leisure coordinators for a state-funded children association. The other one was a girl in her mid-twenties, concerto pianist and about to get started with a Biology Ph.D.
And then there was me. Late-thirties. Some sort of project coordinator. Wearing grey and black. Relaxed as I had never been before, yet too dressed up for such a Kumbaya environment.
The teacher inquired about our German knowledge.
Hmm. Isn’t this supposed to be a beginner’s class?
I told her that I knew my Prost and Tschüs and Auf Wiedersehen and that was all, and this is why I had signed up to the lessons.
I tried to smile, but instead, I pursed my lips in unknowing hopelessness.
She smiled back.
We spent the whole evening trying to master various role-playing language-learning games. My logical self would have rather designed the first few sessions with some grammar and maybe a few basic syntactical structures dotted around instead. Which would have become the bricks and mortar upon which to start building some colourful beginner German chats. Eventually. But alt-pedagogs did not seem to see things this way.
Regardless, I still felt fresh and excited about learning something new. I noted down the entire conversations we played out that evening, while the rest chewed on gum. Pink balloon. Burst.
The following lesson, we proceed with a quick round of feedback around our homework (yes, I’d had the cheek to ask for some homework too; surprise, surprise, I was the only one to deliver the cooked goods). We also reviewed the conversations we had been rehearsing during the previous session.
It was now my turn to read out some lines. The German aficionado thrill. I loved stressing my hard and spitting consonants, like a shepherd barking some dog commands. Sit! Down! There, good girl.
Einen Schönen guten Tag! Ist hier noch frei?
Ja! Kommen Sie!
Someone has been studying over the weekend!!! Giggles.
Erm – isn’t that why we signed up for German lessons in the first place?
I giggled myself and noted down the sentences on the whiteboard, new study material for yet a new rainy Sunday afternoon.
The teacher approached our desks with some photocopied black and white portraits. Supposedly of well-known German folks. She had added some tricky faces to the mix to spice things up too.
Ludwig van Beethoven. Angela Merkel. Marlene Dietrich.
We all seemed to know them.
I shouted out.
The male half of the leisure duo turned around and started staring at me in dire amazement.
How would she know? She does not even look alternative enough to have studied Arts. She is wearing far too expensive clothes too.
Well, boy. I am relatively familiar with my female European twentieth century good thinkers. I am ever so sorry to disappoint you. Smile.
If only I was still five and waiting by the solitary tree, serene like a dark brown and green post-modern statue, standing solo in the pavemented school courtyard. I was serious, but I did not want to cry. The school teacher shouted out. Nina, come over, are you enjoying your first day at school? I tried to smile, but instead, I pursed my lips in unknowing hopelessness.
Luckily I had not paid yet for the entire month, so I never got back to those lessons. One day, someday, I will be taking up solo language studying, choosing the road less travelled.
Until that day. Einen Schönen guten Abend!