As a six year American expat living in Germany, despite best efforts, my grasp of the local language continues to elude me. While I remain committed to the process of learning, there are days when the idea of actually having to utter one word of German leaves me so crestfallen that I can barely raise my head above the blankets. Thankfully the mood passes quickly as I don’t think my husband V had envisioned sharing his life with a woman whose struggles with his language left her bedridden.
Passionate about my quest to communicate, I dove fairly quickly into a full-time language school as my little parlour trick of counting to five was wearing a little thin with our local friends. The fact that I found myself well into my 40’s and learning a foreign language was troubling to say the least. Four years of Spanish instruction in high school made it clear that I lacked one very important success factor in this process - talent. After a few conversations and a bit of research, I landed on a well-known language school to begin my instruction. All went according to plan and inside of a few weeks, I found myself sharing a table with 25 other eager Ausländers (foreigners) from all around the world. Each of us had a story to tell, finding ourselves living in Germany because of a host of reasons but joining this class for the one common goal of learning how to buy toilet paper in the local language. Following a quick round of introductions in our one common language (English), we soon were made away of the women marching through the door who we would come to understand was our language teacher. A relatively severe-looking women in nature, who failed to muster the slightest of smiles upon entry, we all came quickly to understand had simply one goal in mind in teaching our class - the slow and systematic breaking of each and every one of us.
Throughout my studies from the earliest of years, I had good teachers and I had bad teachers but unique and most perplexing about this one was her clear dislike of her students which made me question why she would choose a profession that required her to regularly interact with our kind. Every morning she grimaced her way through our attempts at civility with a ‘Guten Morgan’ that dripped in her dismissal of us all. Over the next several weeks I grew to dislike going to class and developed a rather unhinged hostility toward the German language with faced with her as the facilitator to actually learning it. Quick with a sneer or loud bark of the word "HALLO!" when we failed to answer her correctly, a session with her class left our mind in tatters and our souls relatively shattered
As time passed, it became glaringly apparent to me that something had to give, and I recognized that something had to be me. In thanking the advent of Google, I let my fingers do the walking and quickly found a series of smaller, private schools with which to consider a transfer. Ultimately I decided upon a place called Activ Lernen, a welcoming and nurturing environment that reminded of how the teacher/student relationship was actually really supposed to work. And Micheal, the man who was both my teacher and champion who reminded me of that one thing they taught us all back in kindergarten – learning can be fun. Thank you Michael...because of you I enjoyed the process of learning again and because of you, I can now buy toilet paper.