Started my German lessons at the Volkshule today and wow, my expectations were so off. The lecturer dove right in – everything is in German – her instructions and assistance are in German, the entire textbook is in German, and rarely is English used at all. Then again, that’s probably the best way to accomplish the fantastic feat of learning this new language.
My classmates are pretty varied; 3 Serbians, 2 Hungarians, and one each from Albania, Bosnia, Thailand, Brazil, Canada, and the USA – as usual, I’m the only Bahamian. The American, Canadian, and I were so happy to finally meet folks from the West that I think we unintentionally formed a cliche. The professions were just as diverse; an architectural draftsman, dentist, lawyer, teacher, confectioner, soccer-player, economist, nurse, journalist, web-designer, fashion-designer, and marketing manager. The lecturer visibly impressed, asked what brought us to Austria; here we all pretty much had the same answer – Love of our spouses!
To be honest, the class was fun and we all had a pretty good time – except maybe our football-player who confessed to me during our break that he has always had a tough time in classes and was thinking of dropping out. We seem to be moving pretty fast as well; learning how to exchange pleasantries like Guten Morgen (Good Morning) and how to ask/answer questions like Wie geht’s? (How are you?), Wie heist du? (What is your name?), Woher kommst du? (Where are you from?), and Was bist du von Beruf? (What is your profession?). We learned the alphabet, the German name for our countries, the feminine/masculine articles for nouns, and the correct verb/infinitive pairings as well as many words. As if that wasn’t enough, we also learned the formal and informal way to do all of the above…all in 3 hours…and that’s just the first day! Still it was fun and there was lots of laughter as we tripped over our tongues trying to pronounce German words and clumsily conducted interviews with each other using what we’d learned.
After class, the Western group (the Canadian, the American, and I) sat for coffee and commiserated about all we’d left behind – namely, our careers, independence, friends and family. We joked about how much we loved our spouses to have done such a foolhardy thing (none of us have been here longer than 4 months) and how we’re secretly glad to have the class to attend just to have something to occupy our time until we get our footing again. At that point, the conversation turned joyous and optimistic as we boasted about how we intended to pick up and extend our careers even further. We all expressed gratitude to have the opportunity to live in such an easy country (from an migration point of view) and marveled that no other country we knew of provides an integration program for migrants; leaving them in a sink-or-swim scenario. After exchanging contacts, we departed to our separate lives all feeling a little happier that we’d each finally made a friend in Austria.