Well, that is week one of my two-week intensive German studies over, and it has been one of the busiest weeks of my life.
I am staying in the beautiful home of the teacher (actually, she is the school owner) and her husband, and each day comprises one-on-one lessons from 9am to around 4pm. Meals are taken with the family, and free time is also spent predominantly with them.
Being private tuition as opposed to class based lessons, the programme is tailored to my particular needs, and in my case it is a combination of grammar, phonetics and comprehension. Of course, I am finding the German grammar the hardest element to get to grips with, but also the fact that the entire day is pretty much solid German means I am feeling mentally exhausted quite often and on occasions emotionally drained too. The latter was a surprise to me – on Wednesday evening I just felt like jelly and incredibly homesick to the point where I thought to myself “why the hell am I doing this?”. I think this was the result of exhaustion from the intensive studies and the fact that it started to hit me that all my efforts to date really have only lightly scratched the surface of the vast sphere of the German language. My teacher came to the rescue and after half an hour or so I was back on track and ready to face yet another German social gathering, but I have to admit there are still occasions when I really feel I need to be alone but cannot without appearing rude.
In order to break the routine, I do also have another teacher who comes for some of the time. She is from Bamberg University and specializes in phonetics. I recommend to anyone who is considering doing any German course to include some phonetic tuition as it something that is usually not done in the basic group courses, and the problem with that is bad pronunciation becomes ingrained and very difficult to correct later on. My teacher has taught me things such as how to recognize where stresses occur in words, and she has also taught me some great techniques to pronounce things clearly and correctly. Incidentally, these techniques will also help me with my English pronunciation, as I speak quite fast and sometimes with a heavy English accent which non-native English speakers find difficult to follow.
Socially, the course is superb and virtually every evening an activity has been arranged by my host teacher and her husband which gives me an opportunity to practice what I have learned whilst at the same time meeting the natives. For example, On Saturday we went to the wedding party of some people I met on my very first day and it was super – Bavarian wine and beer, plentiful food, singing and lots of talking with a wide range of interesting people.
Criticisms? I would not say I have any really. As I mentioned earlier, not having much ‘alone’ time is difficult for me as I am quite introvert. Also occasionally in my “free” time my teacher will really pester me to arrange my papers or to do some physical exercise, but to be fair I know she is doing it purely with my own interests at heart and I have to stubbornly accept that she is right. However, these points are more observations than criticisms.
All in all, after the first week I am very pleased with every aspect of the course, and I feel I have made good, steady progress which is not bad after only a week. I still have one more week to go and will give my final review along with full details of the school and the courses they offer after that so stay tuned.