american in a czech german class

it might seem a little strange but i’m taking german classes in the czech republic… even though i’ve lived here for a year and a half and speak very little czech. but it to me it makes perfect sense, and here’s why.

when we moved to czech republic, we decided to play things by ear, and even now, we re-evaluate every six months what we would do for the next six months. unsure of how long i would stay here, i never wanted to commit to any long-term czech classes, even though i love language learning. i was a bit concerned about the usefulness of knowing czech after leaving the czech republic (still am, honestly). i did have a two month period of free courses, but to quote this great film, sometimes “anything free is worth saving up for”.

then a couple months ago, this conversation happened and my world shook. just who did i think i was? not only was i not taking czech but i wasn’t learning any language!* what a bloody waste of time abroad! since i knew there was a possibility we might be moving this summer, i took german. but also, i’ve been studying it off and on since 2006. even if i stay, german is really the second language of this little corner of south czechland sandwiched between germany and austria.  it’s useful here, it’s useful where i like to travel, not to mention my continued studies of it: it just made sense!

and so, in my first german group class for many years, i had those familiar feelings come back to me and retook my role as the over-eager language student… yep, i’m that one raising her hand in response to almost every class-posed question, wondering if i should tone it down to match the mood of the class. tired looking doctors struggling to prop up their heads, some brawny engineers, and a couple giggly girls who insist on speaking czech are my classmates. and me, with my lemon water, dress, lipstick, pony tail, and all the answers from the homework assignments.

if there was a word i didn’t know, i’d ask and my teacher would ask the rest of the class if they knew this german word in english. and usually they did. the guy next to me exclaimed, “it’s like getting two languages for the price of one!” it can get a bit strange when the teacher stops to explain the students grammar in czech and i’m all like, “hello?!” generally i’d say it’s quite a positive experience. another good reason to study german in czech republic? two hours of english/german conversation exchange with my teacher after class! i was lucky enough to be placed with a teacher who is currently learning english.

(below, throwback to german class at UW on a snow day, 2007– notice, the textbook in the photo. someone in this class once asked me, “do you have any other classes?”)

while abroad if resources affords, i would like to continue taking (some) language classes. and if all else fails and i have to quit, i’m sure it will fade happily into my passive subconscious like spanish did. are you learning a language? how’s the progress been?

*which is not completely true, as i acquired rosetta stone for german in 2011 and have continually been practicing with it since then.