From a German Coursebook to Studying Languages...
Karolina Haase, Poland
Karolina Haase is a student at the University of Gdańsk, Poland. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As a child of 10, I didn’t like learning anything at school. What’s more I didn’t see any point in doing exercises, homework and some other school things. The only subject I liked a bit more than others was English. Unfortunately, the English lessons weren’t satisfying enough for me, mainly due to teacher’s attitude. For years I had English with the same teacher who was constantly paying attention to five, six “over-talented” children that, as I could observe, participated in an educational rat race. Someone could say “raise your hand and you will be noticed” but not in this case because always there was someone who knew “a better answer”. Therefore, I was automatically discouraged from learning English, although I saw my potential already as a child.
Very unwillingly I attended English lessons but still I was interested in that language so I hit upon an idea to make the lessons more pleasant. Namely, I was prepared for each lesson so that I had all unknown vocabulary translated and the big part of exercises from a course book done (It was all my initiative and not homework set by the teacher). What was wrong with that? Nothing, I think, because I did the school material at home alone what allowed me to feel more comfortable and confident during English lessons until the end of primary school.
In the course of my education process I discovered one more language - German. I was about 10 years old when I found some German course book on my bookshelf. The German language wasn’t so popular then among the youth but could be useful in the future. That’s why I started to learn German. In addition, I found something that I was good at and what allowed me to stand out from the rest.
My first German course book was very appealing for beginner because of a clear structure of units. There was a division into vocabulary, grammar, phonetics and some examples of sentences referring to word order in them. The vocabulary part consisted of several words or phrases in each unit which you could exercise reading a dialogue. In the phonetics section you could find the bulk of words presenting a particular sound. I would say that the grammar section was not bad at all. There were clearly explained grammar structures and terms, just things you really need for beginning.
As you can easily guess, in the middle school I was the best student at German and I could rest a bit on my laurels. Fortunately, in that school I had a great English teacher who was open to us and enjoyed talking with all of us in a group. Never had I experienced such a friendly atmosphere during a lesson than in the middle school with that teacher. As a consequence of that and the effective teaching, I passed my final exam and got a high mark in English, and German obviously too.
Secondary school was some kind of challenge for me because of high German and low English level. Our teachers were strongly concentrated on teaching German and English, in my group it wasn’t so desirable. Secondary school showed me how difficult language can be when learning it. For instance, from simple phrasal verbs in both languages we came to some complicated and complex ones. Each next month provided us the large quantities of new vocabulary and more and more new things concerning grammar. The worst thing, in German for example, was the big amount of new exceptions to many rules and principles. So many details did we have to memorise, especially in German, that we reached a very satisfying level of that language. Contrary to my German level, I had to devote much more time to catch up with the English material to get into university and to cope with the academic level. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough at university and I didn’t pass the final exam in English which resulted in me having to retake the first academic year.
To sum up, I can give you a piece of advice, namely if you find the cooperation with a teacher inconvenient for whatever reasons, don’t give up and try to go around a problem and take the biggest advantage of the difficult situation as much as possible. Always be a step ahead to show your willingness and engagement in learning. The last can be the first is the conclusion I reached after one year of hard English study and getting on top of that problem at university.