Friday, June 3, 2016

Dodging an Embarrassing Moment

I am once again - happily - teaching German to foreigners at the Hermann-Hesse-Kolleg in Horb. The school director asked me to come back for a new small group, and I agreed with some trepidation. What if they are not as motivated as my former students? What if they are young (I've discovered the joy of teaching adults who understand the value of learning)? What if they don't know enough English to understand my Denglisch explanations of German grammar?

Well, any worries I might have had were unfounded. First of all, they're all adults. One of them is from Tanzania, and she's learning German because she married a local and wants to be able to stay and work here. She's been learning German off-and-on for a few years. Another is from the Ukraine and has been learning German for several months in Germany plus a while in the Ukraine. She'll be going back to the Ukraine soon, but would like to return - and I hope she does! Travel and/or moving from the Ukraine is not terribly easy from what I understand, but all things become easier in Germany if you know the language. Then there's a lad from Saudi Arabia. He has finished his studies and was working in Dubai, and is considering a practicum or further study in Germany. He has been here for three weeks, and what he has learned in that short amount of time is astounding. Then today a 73-year-old woman from Japan joined us. She was nervous about joining a class and said her German isn't very good, but it was clear after just a few minutes that she fits in with us just fine!

I just realized I totally digressed from the point of my post. Sorry 'bout that.

The other day I arrived at school at the same time as the director who hired me, and we walked up the stairs together. After we greeted each other, he said to me, "Du kommst ziemlich gut an." Ok, ankommen is "to arrive" and "ziemlich gut" is "pretty well". My morning brain translated that as "You arrive pretty well." That makes no sense, so I grappled with it for a split second. Maybe he meant "Good timing" - we both arrived at the same time. Or more likely "You're pretty punctual" (punctuality is extremely important in Germany). If I had decided to pretend I understood, I would have replied with either:
   "Haha, du auch!"  ("Yeah, you, too!")  or
   "Allerdings!"  ("Indeed!")

I was tired (I am a major Morgenmuffel) and had a headache, and so I decided not to pretend I understood what he said. And it's a bloody good thing I didn't.

I simply 'fessed up and said, "Sorry - was bedeutet das?" ("Sorry, what does that mean?")

He explained (in German or English - I don't even remember) that he meant that my students speak well of me.

OMG...can you imagine what he would have thought if I'd gone with one of my other possible responses?

    Director:  "Your students speak well of you."
    Me:   "Indeed!!"

Sometimes being a Morgenmuffel is a good thing!

"Morgenmuffel: Not yet responsive. Please wait..."

**I do not consider myself a great teacher (I know great teachers - Linda and Doug, I'm looking at you!). But if my students are satisfied and feel that they are learning, that makes me happy and I will put my heart and soul into every day.

1 comment:

  1. bei jdm. gut ankommen = to go down well with sb. :-)

    I'm sure you are a great teacher.