March 16, 2004

The Lightbulb Goes On

Feeling much better here. I'm back on solid foods again, experimentally, and it seems to be going well so far. Phew!

We had class again tonight and I witnessed a miracle. The lightbulb finally went on for one woman in our class. She joined late and speaks exclusively Spanish, so I couldn't help her in English. Up until tonight, she would sit next to me and copy all of my work from the book. Now, that wouldn't bother me so much, but the answers are in the back of the book. And it's not like this is rigorous homework we're talking about here. We get maybe 2 or 3 very short assignments.

Anyway, this lady was so clueless, I was amazed. She missed the day we learned the alphabet, and has no idea about any kind of German pronounciation. She would just look at the book and guess, using phrases we used often. For example, the book said "Woher kommen Sie?" (where do you come from?). She said "Wie heißt du?" (what is your name?). Now I think you don't need to understand any German pronounciation to see immediately that these two phrases are nowhere near alike.

In fact, after last night I strongly suspected that she didn't know how to read. That's how bad she was. Every time we would go around the table answering questions from a list, where the next person says the next item on the list, she would just repeat what I said, and even if you pointed to it in the book she would just laugh and shake her head. The only conclusion I could draw was that she didn't know how to recognize words on a page.

Well, tonight we had a major breakthrough. First, I sat on the other side of the room, because of the copying thing but mainly because of her overdose of perfume. This left her sitting by herself with no one to copy off of, to point out the right place in the book, or to find the right page. I thought for sure she'd fail miserably. But no! She finally stepped up and started understanding things. She realized that when we go around the table she's supposed to give the next answer. She even figured out how to count the people ahead of her to figure out which answer she would have to give. And when she did answer, her pronounciation was poor (and I am definitely not one to talk about that!) but it was clear that she was trying to sound out the words.

I was amazed. And relieved. It was agonizing sitting there watching her try to fake her way through it. I don't know what happened between last night and tonight, but it was as if a lightbulb suddenly went on in her head. The whole class gave a collective sigh of relief at her first independent correct answer and the teacher gave a big smile and said "Gut! Gut!" (good). She looked much more relaxed. I think she's going to make it after all.

And I finally got fed up with Mr. Impatient, and his new friend Mr. Impatient 2. The first time Mr. Impatient 1 spoke out of turn, answering a question for someone else, I pointed at him with a mock disapproving face (real hard to fake, let me tell you) and said "It's not your turn!" I did it in such a way that was it funny rather than accusatory. When Mr. Impatient 2 jumped in, I did the same thing. "It's not your turn!" Everyone giggled at that. And best of all, they stopped doing it!

And I can't be too mad at Mr. Impatient (1) anyway. He suggested that we all go out for a beer or a bite to eat after class, something that I had wanted to do but hadn't worked up the courage to. I've realized he's a nice guy and means well, he's just, well, impatient. Anyway, we'll be going out after class on Thursday and I'm really looking forward to interacting socially.

Posted by Shelby at March 16, 2004 10:50 PM