It’s fun to pick up German as a second foreign language. After this many years out of beiwai, where I began my painful journey into the language spoken in the great land called Deutschland, I am learning German, again.
This is the first time I am taking any classes at Maryland outside of Economics and the hard sciences. Moreover, it’s also the first time I am learning a foreign language with the American kids. Since middle school I’ve been accustomed to the way foreign languages are taught in China: play the tape over and over again until one can recite, do well in quizzes, dictations, spelling, grammar, etc. It remains to be seen how different the foreign language classes are conducted in the U.S.
So yesterday was the first class of German 103 Intensive Introductory German. 11 people in the class, not counting the instructor, who was technically a TA: She’s a master’s student at the German department. Short, dark hair and a little flabby, she seemed personable, although often a little too eager to giggle for no apparent reason.
Out of the 11 students, only 9 qualify to be called “kids.” I am easily 8 years older than most of the class, although there’s this middle-age bald guy sitting smack in the middle of the room who is at least in his 40s. He’s a gunner, too. So I am not feeling too exposed.
The first class was fun. There was the customary self-introduction, which went fairly informally and all in English, so we got to know each other pretty well. Some of the kids traveled in Germany extensively. One was born in Germany and lived there until 7, the other had German speaking grandparents but never learned to speak the language themselves. This got me to think that if I stay in this country while my kid is growing up, one of two things can happen: either we leave altogether by the age of 7, which means the kid will probably need to take English lessons all over again, like the guy in my class with German, or, we can stay here indefinitely and make the kid learn to speak Chinese, i.e., the language of the grandparents.
It’s a dilemma that I don’t have to consider now. After all, if everything goes as planned, I will be working in Europe in no time at all and my kid will grow up speaking French, German and English, so all these worries are moot. But who knows.