Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

Two weeks of German

10 days later it was time to leave the mountains.  My bag was full of delicious jam, pickles and bread that I had helped make.  I left on Sunday night, with a lift through carpooling.co.uk.  A man called Viktor was driving from Villach to Bratislava, and I managed to get a lift to Vienna for only 10 Euros! (the train was 50 Euros). I was feeling pretty tired, as I had had a late night and a few drinks the night before. I was looking forward to listening to my music, staring out the window and perhaps having a little nap.  Not if Viktor had anything to do about it.  Viktor was a very inquisitive man, he could speak 7 languages and was thirsty for knowledge. He made it his mission to get out all the information I had on Australia.  This involved 1000′s of questions ranging from what were some famous Australian icons/celebrities/brands/foods; the metric system; the Australian dollar; house prices; Australians’ average annual income; the distance between capital cities; the population and demographics; the weather… and the list continues.  I had to make up a few things, but I’m sure he checked everything I said when he got home anyway.  He had little interest for the 3 other Austrian passengers sitting squashed up in the back of the car.  I guess there was probably nothing about Austria that he didn’t already know.

  

A small kite festival I stumbled upon on a Sunday walk

I got back to my miniature flat in the student residence where I was staying.  The hospital-like interior and grey atmosphere didn’t bother me at all, I was just happy to be away from the endless Australia-related questions.  However the contrast between the mountains and city was felt straight away, and I immediately missed the fresh air and happy little routine that I had had. The next day I started my 2 week intensive German class. I found out why it was called intensive.  4 hours of German a day, for 10 days. Intense.

A lot of the other students in the class where European, and had experience at learning other languages, at least by learning English and in some cases other languages too.  It makes me angry that Australian schooling is so lax at teaching foreign languages.  There is a certain arrogance at thinking that because English is a dominant language that no others are useful.  I understand that because Australia is so far away from everywhere it is difficult for students to practice the languages that they are learning, but I still think that it is a skill that every brain should have to concur.  And they say that it’s much easier for children to pick up new languages.  I struggled initially in the German class, and felt that I was behind the students in picking up the language.  I don’t know if it was because I didn’t have any experience at learning a language, or that I had other things on my mind at the time, or simply if languages were not my strong point.  However, it did get a little easier.  The class became a lot more enjoyable as everyone got to know each other.  We even went out for drinks a few times, and would chat in the breaks about our troubles and successes in our new homes.

We learnt a lot in the two weeks.  Everyday I could understand more and more German words written on advertisements; in the metro; on street signs; or spoken in the street.  It was really useful learning the numbers, as I began to know how much my shopping cost at the vegetable market; which meant that I didn’t have to guess or always hand over way too money just to be on the safe side.

Me at the fruit and veggie market outside the metro station near my house. Much cheaper and fresher and friendlier than the supermarket.

  

During my first two weeks in Vienna I wasn’t so happy.  After my busy and fun time in the mountains the realisation that I was all alone in a big foreign city hit me.  I have traveled a lot in the past, but always with friends.  This makes the difficulties that you come across not such big dilemmas, as they are  shared with others and solved together.  Now I was the one solely in charge of the map (not my strong point) and getting lost was a frequent occurrence.  I was really missing my friends, family and lover back home, and was wondering why I had chosen to come and live on the other side of the world from them.  Small things, like washing my clothes or getting my film developed, became difficult tasks.  I knew it would get easier as it all became more familiar, but I still felt lost and frustrated a lot of the time.

-Betty

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2 responses

  1. tonialeannegray

    Hi Betty– Sensational post. Please remember you are not alone. The euphoria associated with initial arrival is often replaced by “sojourner’s remorse”. I remember arriving in Colorado as a post-graduate exchange student, and the exhilaration soon evaporated after I was robbed whilst being away from my motel room. If I could have taken the first plane back to Oz, I would have. But luckily, “tough times don’t last, but tough people do”. And part of the overseas experience is developing resiliency and resourcefulness. Ride it out, the dissonance and discomfort is part and parcel of study abroad.

    October 15, 2011 at 8:02 am

  2. Jan Gothard

    Hullo from Perth,Betty. Great to read your fabulous blogs and to see where you have been. I guess the ice breaking farm was your honeymoon period and then you hit the reality of life in Wien. You don’t say if you have come through that phase yet – but as Tonia said, resilience is key and you will get there. Surely anyone who can puddle slide ( no I don’t know what that means! I was just intrigued by the reference in an earlier comment!) can get by! It WILL get better. And I would dearly like to hear more.

    Fully agree with your comments about Australia’s lack of language learning – as someone how studied a lot of different languages at school, I am sure that each one gets easier. I really salute your bravery in going to a country where you dont have any language though.

    And classes – will they be in English or German?

    And I loved your comments about the over-inquisitive Austrian!

    Keep the photos rolling. And keep us posted

    Jan

    October 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm

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