I was placed into an advanced beginner class based on my following results from my placement test:
- Speaking = A1
- Listening = A1
- Reading = A2
- Writing = A2
- Vocabulary = A2
- Grammar = A2
I was quite happy being in this class as being in a pre-intermediate class, I believe, would have been difficult for me, and I couldn’t envisage myself getting much out of it. I wanted to hone my speaking and listening skills, so I was happy to do the basics from the ground up.
I had taken my speaking test before the first lesson and it did knock me, just a tad, but I was very excited to see what it was like to be on the other side of the fence as a language student. I have two classmates, one from California, who lives in Berlin, and a recent high-school graduate from Bahrain, who wants to go to university in Germany.
My teachers are great. I have two. The first one wants to use English to make us more comfortable, but hopes to slowly filter it out by the end of the week, while the other uses the opposite approach and uses English only when communication breaks down. I like both approaches. I wish I was able to use my students’ L1 more directly in the class in order to help them. Listening to my teacher in my L2 is quite daunting, but I try to apply how I manage my own class by catching words here and there and then trying to form a collective meaning in my head. The teacher’s direction, body language and annotation of the digital coursebook really helps to steady the anxiety ship that I am on.
The teachers were impressed with our level of vocabulary and grammar. We mainly touched on introductions, articles, hobbies, and the conjugation of verbs. My speaking was a little slow off the bat, but with more opportunities, I’m sure my accuracy and speed will increase steadily over time.
I started to flex my linguistic muscles today as we covered some important verbs. It was interesting to see a list of over fifteen words. Normally, we are taught on pre-service to introduce 8 to 12 words. However, I don’t think this is a hard and fast rule, and should be used as a guide for newly-qualified teachers. It all depends on the strengths of what your students can manage. I get the feeling that the teacher saw us as quite strong, so some of the verbs were probably considered recyclable while the others were completely new. We practised conjugating them, but I came undone for the endings needed with the second-person plural (ihr).
The teachers used an inductive approach with us to work out patterns in form and meaning throughout, which was welcomed as I wanted to test myself. I can really see the benefits of this approach because it is more challenging to work things out on your own or with someone, or to see how much you understand than to be told outright. I know that not all students appreciate the inductive approach and just want to be told, but a needs analysis can unearth these preferences.
One interesting thing I noticed was that the teacher warned us about the differences between ‘der Mann’ and the pronoun ‘man’, which some native English speakers often misunderstand or misuse. I didn’t really notice this before and hadn’t had a problem with it. Now that I realise the similarity, will I now make a mistake from now on? Should teachers present these common systematic errors that certain learners make? Could they actually be putting those learners in danger in making this error if they hadn’t had a problem with it before? Of course, my teacher was just looking out for us, but it was interesting to think about this, and perhaps I need to think carefully about presenting information to my students as we are not all engineered the same and are on different paths in language learning.
We did a little bit of sentence structure and word order, which I find difficult, but I need to look over my notes to get a better grasp on this. In German, you can play around with the structure of the sentence to some degree, which, to be honest, I find quite daunting, because it will make me quite puzzled when decoding dialogues during my listening practice.
I’ve noticed that sometimes I get into teacher mode when I don’t blurt out an answer when the other classmates are asked to answer, even when I know it, because I want them to get that little victory, and especially when I am in a breakout room, for instance, helping my classmates with translation, explaining why certain things are so (when I am 100 percent sure about it), checking in on them to see if they understood everything, and encouraging more speaking time before time elapses. This is certainly a role that students can take on themselves as this can further strengthen their knowledge of the target language whilst also enhancing rapport between classmates.
We did the alphabet today which I thought I would be somewhat good at as I have – nerd alert! – reference material scribbled and placed on my fridge. However, I got mixed up with ‘a’ (which sounds like ‘r’ in English), ‘e’(which sounds like ‘a’), ‘i’ (which sounds like ‘e’), and ‘r’. Oftentimes, my students don’t see the benefit of doing the alphabet as they see it as being ‘basic’, that is until they start doing it in class and how listening to the sounds can be quite cumbersome. The alphabet is pretty important for English students when trying to fill out a form, spell out a new word, or complete a section of part one in the IELTS listening exam. I was having enormous difficulty with the listening of the German letters more so than the speaking of it, but I needed a beat to pronounce those troublesome letters stated above. This was the most challenging part of the week by far. I guess you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, so I am okay with making mistakes and feeling vulnerable in front of my classmates.
Today we looked at countries, languages and capital cities whilst integrating the alphabet we did yesterday. I really appreciated the fact that my teacher did this as he probably saw that we were struggling with the German letters. After this session, I felt more confident with the German letters including the umlauts. Even if it were painstaking, it was such a relief to hear ‘sehr gut’ from your teacher once you had spelt out a county, language or city correctly. I realise now that subtle feedback like that from the teacher is so rewarding for a student after being put through the wringer.
I am starting to get more used to my second teacher’s approach to speaking ninety-five percent of the time in Deutsch. Obviously, I want to know every word he is saying, but I can get the gist of what he is instructing us to do. I appreciated when he corrected our written sentences whilst also adding a bit more context or alternatives for me to think about in future. I do the same for my students. I think students can acquire and retain new language easily if it is based on the output they had produced.
On Friday, we consolidated everything we had learnt throughout the week. We were given a mini-test as well, just to gauge how we are doing, so no level test was applied (thank the stars). It was interesting to see that we were tested on items we hadn’t covered before which was a little unfair, but has spurred me on to research these items. After doing assessment research on Delta, I am not a huge fan when it comes to testing to be honest, especially when precious classroom time can be directed to, say, speaking practice. However, it is nice to see how you are getting on with the target language.
We had to say goodbye to one of the teachers as he has been reassigned, which is disappointing. Now I know why students cause such a huge ruckus when they have to bid a sad farewell to their teachers. What’s more is that I was unable to express my gratitude through Deutsch. Even though we have only worked together for a few days, I really liked my teacher, their personality, and their methods.
Techniques and skills I can borrow from the teachers.
- I am definitely stealing the idea of organising the course and its materials, the homework assignments, videos, tutorials and other tidbits, through Padlet. This would be very effective for any course, but I think my one-to-one students would love to have all this organisation on one page and at the touch of a few buttons.
- I liked when the ping-pong analogy was used to instruct the classmates to ask and answer questions. I normally use tennis, but I may use ping-pong in future as it has a nice ring to it.
- It’s nice when the teachers pause the lesson briefly and go deeper into the knowledge of the words, or relating the language to the culture of the country or local context.
- “If you want to be super correct with the grammar…” when placing the article (der) in front of Iraq and Iran. I will use this expression when talking about optional grammar usage.
I’m looking forward to next week to see where the course takes me, so I will keep you posted on what happens as I enter week 2 at GLS.