Ever since I finished Rosetta Stone, I have wanted to do something to further my German skills. But, what?
My city only has one place where a student can study German two days per week. All the other schools only offer classes that run every single day. T-Rex is in kindergarten Monday through Friday, but Screech only goes to his little school three mornings per week. Unfortunately, the times of the two-days-per-week school don’t fit within our family schedule.
I can’t afford private lessons, so that option is also a no go.
Hmmm.. what to do?
I mentioned my frustration to a friend who suggested an intensive course. Several schools in the area offer these courses; one can start on any Monday and stay for as many or as few weeks as desired. After thinking about it and talking it over with Doc Sci, I decided I could commit to one week. Not great, but better than nothing.
After finding a school that had availability and a small class size, I was required to take a placement test. As far as I understand it, German language proficiency is divided into the following levels from basic to advanced: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1. I took a practice test online that recommended I start in B1. The language teacher at the school suggested the end of A2. However, the A2 class wasn’t offered in the morning, so she agreed to let me try B1. If it was too hard, I would be, well, out of luck.
Fortunately, I was able to hack it. Barely. But not for the reasons you might think.
I understood almost everything going on in the class except for two things.. some vocabulary here and there that the class already knew from being together for several months (which is unavoidable, really), and grammatical terms. The latter frustrated me to no end.
In my opinion, the lack of grammar is both Rosetta Stone’s strength and its Achilles heel.
I learned a lot of German in five levels of Rosetta Stone and appreciated not getting bogged down in tedious grammatical rules and diagrams, but I did not learn really important grammatical terms like noun, verb, adjective, adverb, accusative, dative, genitive, perfect, imperfect, present, past, future, etc. in German, and how they corresponded to the grammar taught in Rosetta Stone pictures.
For instance, Rosetta Stone will teach you to say “The dog ran”, but it will not teach you that “the” is an article, “dog” is a noun, and “ran” is a verb. If I was to continue taking a traditional German course in a classroom, I would have quite a bit of catching up to do in this area.
Luckily, my objective in taking the class was not to learn grammar (and the teacher was nice enough to help me understand what in the WORLD I was supposed to do for some of the exercises). Rather, my aim was to improve my speaking skills and perhaps pick up some new vocabulary along the way.
In this regard, I considered the time spent in class worthwhile. A major plus was the class size – only three other students besides myself. This gave the teacher plenty of opportunities to call on me and force me to fumble through speaking.
(If I haven’t said it before, I loathe speaking foreign languages. I’m slow to process what is said, slow to think of how to respond, and slow to actually speak my reply.)
Though I think the experience was helpful, taking an intensive course is not something I could do every week even if I had childcare. Most students in the schools’ classes were 5-10+ years younger than me, unmarried, and without children. After all other daily responsibilities were done, I barely had an hour for homework at night, let alone time to attempt memorizing vocabulary and grammar from the previous days’ lessons.
But, I enjoyed the chance to get out and try something new. Now, if only I could find a conversation group in my neighborhood or some alternative or creative way to practice other than with government officials and medical office staff!