Today, I will talk about my experience in Germany, the last place where I studied a language. If you want to know more about my other experiences, look at the posts about how I studied Spanish and French abroad.
In August 2015, I started to learn German and I still am studying, albeit at a slower pace. To improve quickly and use as a motivation, I decided that I would go to Germany in January 2016.
However, I did not have enough money to support myself there and pay for a course. Therefore, I looked for alternatives. I chose to do volunteer work in exchange for accommodation and signed up in two sites: Workaway and Helpx.
In these sites, volunteers pay between 20 and 30 euros to contact possible hosts worldwide. You just have to make a profile and search for where you want to go. Do not expect hosts to contact you. Most of them receive several proposals.
My criterion was to go in Germany and I sought work related to childcare or languages, because these are the things that I like. After contacting several families, I found one that lived on the outskirts of Hamburg. The family has two little children (twins) and my main task was to help them with the children.
The city of Hamburg is the second largest in Germany and has a good infrastructure, a strong economy and is very safe. The city has an open, cosmopolitan spirit. The downside is that it is an expensive city and the weather is rainy for much of the year. Overall, Hamburgers speak a good standard German, but in some areas of the city, as well as while talking with some older people, it is common to hear Low German.
My routine in Germany
When I arrived at the family home, I had a warm and respectful reception. I had a spacious room and a flexible schedule. I had mornings and evenings free. As I was there in the winter, I was too lazy to go out and spent most of the day with family. My job was to take care and play with children and sometimes help with cleaning.
Unlike my experiences in Arequipa and in Lyon, I decided to choose the school only after arriving. In the first week, I researched several schools in Hamburg and Harburg. After some thought, I chose the semi-intensive course at the Colón school. My choice was based on price and on time. The other schools had more expensive courses, besides that the schedule were incompatible.
As I studied alone, I did not have a clear idea of my level. To define it, I did the online test at the school site, and the result was…
C1, yes, this was the result. Obviously, my level was lower than that. I knew that I was not a B2, so I chose to sign up to the B1 level course, which was at the end.
The course lasts 90 minutes per day and the number of students in the class varied widely, since it is possible to start the course on any day of the month. Sometimes we had only four students in the class, sometimes 10. We only had one teacher, who started teaching this class at A1 level and is supposed to work with the students until the C2 level.
At the end of each level, we make a test. It is easier than an official examination, such as the Goethe Institute exam. In addition, the oral assessment is not made during the test, but made according to class participation. I passed with a good grade and I received a school certificate. I informed myself and looks like the school certificate is well accepted in Hamburg.
Each level in the school lasted about two and a half months in the intensive course. Therefore, to reach the C2 level one would take 15 months in the intensive course and 30 months in semi-intensive course. In short: the semi-intensive course takes place 30 months studying with just one teacher. What, from my point of view, is a big mistake. With time, the teacher knows you too well and you know him/her too well. With that, you lose curiosity and interest in the person and you have no more subject to talk about.
In relation to school, I did not like it. The first reason was that I thought the course was grammar focused and the pace slow. Unfortunately, sometimes the teacher talked too much and did not share very well the time the students spent talking. I had classes where a student spoke for 50 minutes (in a class of 90 minutes), that is just too much.
In the first month, I went to the classes discontented, thinking that the course could be better. The following month, I decided to accept that the class was not as good as I want and that I would have to complete my studies alone. By accepting that the class was far from perfect, I began to enjoy it better. I tried to focus on the feedback I received regarding my errors in speaking and writing and concentrated on them when studying alone. Nevertheless, from time to time, I felt bored during class.
The school had several classrooms in three different buildings on the same street. In some, we had a little room to talk, but no place to sit. The customer service was cold, people always seemed impatient, but usually one could obtain the information that was looking for. The school had good options of cultural and sightseeing activities, and that was the best part of having studied there. The tours are cheaper than done on your own and you have the opportunity to meet students from other classes. In addition, once a month, we had a film session, which cost 5 euros.
After three months in Germany, my German improved, especially my listening skills, but not as I wanted. As I have written about it here, I will not repeat myself. If the classes were faster and less focused on grammar, I believe that would have improved more. I left Hamburg at the beginning of the B2 level.
The classes were good to improve my level of German and written understanding. My oral skills have not improved so much. Going to school was the way I found to socialize in Germany. But the classes were worth? Honestly, I am not sure of the answer. When I think about it, I think I would learn more alone, but at the same time, I know I improved my German while I was there. If I had another option, I would try to do the intensive classes or perhaps look for another school.
The classes also depend much of each teacher, so I highly recommend that before starting a class, make a test to see if you fit there and like the teacher (since this teacher will accompany you during the whole course). I continued to attend classes, even if I didn’t like that much due the lower price and to force me to socialize. It was my choice at that time. Looking at the pros and cons of the classes, I believe that the advantages, although small, were big than the disadvantages.
What about you? Have you studied abroad? Tell us your story. Contact us here.