April 29, 2004

Sink the Sub

Hooray for my husband! He bought me a brand new wireless card that (so far) is MUCH more reliable than my old one. I guess he got sick of me complaining about my dropped connection every 5 minutes. The squeaky wheel gets the new network card.

We had a substitute in my German class tonight, and it made me appreciate Matthias, our regular teacher, all the more. Katharina, our substitute, was nice enough, but it was clear she had never stepped into a classroom of beginners before and had definitely over estimated our abilities. Our class basically went like this the whole night:

Teacher: [something in German]
Students: [blank look]
Teacher: [same thing in German]
Students: [blank look]

I quickly came to realize that Matthias has a gift for explanation. If we don't understand what he's saying, he instantly comes up with another way to say or describe it, or he'll draw on the board or use his hands. This type of explanation works really well.

Our substitute, OTOH, was a little more obscure. And she kept asking US for explanations. For example, we had an interaction that went like this:

Teacher: (in German) What is a Bungalow?
(note, the German word for Bungalow is the same as the English word for Bungalow)
Students: [blank look]
Teacher: A bungalow?
Student 1: Ein haus? (a house?)
Teacher: Ja (clearly expecting more)
Me: Ein kleines haus? (a small house?)
Teacher: Ja (clearly expecting more)
Students: [blank look]

Okay lady, give me a friggin' break here. I can tell you what a bungalow is in the United States, summed up in three words: A Small House. But as you may have noticed, neither I nor any of the other students in the room are German, and obviously we have no idea what a German bungalow is or how Germans distinguish bungalows from other small houses. She finally drew a picture of a house with a pointy roof, then a house without a pointy roof. And there's your German lesson for today--a bungalow is a small house without a pointy roof.

It was frustrating, and the evening pretty much went on like this. We did kill a good 45 minutes by reading long passages aloud in our halting, stuttering, beginner way. Then we killed some more time doing an audio exercise with the cd included in the book. By the time 7:30 rolled around, there was a palpable sense of relief from both the students and the teacher.

I hope Matthias never leaves us again.

Posted by Shelby at April 29, 2004 10:43 PM

just a point of reference for your German teacher... a bungalow is not just a small house without a pointed roof. There are a lot distinguising characteristics of a true Bungalow!


and thats your architectural history lesson for the day. (I'm now at the point where if I have to look at one more small stupid house I may scream!)


Posted by: Mary at May 3, 2004 01:37 PM

She seems to have had some experience in teaching small children in german school.
In our schools most teachers don't explain everything but ask questions to get the children more involved. After those questioning the teacher starts to explain and make things clear.
Well... as you see this method doesn't work well with grown up novices. ;)
That's why teachers for kids and teachers for adults get a somewhat different education in germany.

Posted by: Stephan at July 1, 2004 04:51 PM
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