By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs August 16, 2011
VILSECK, Germany -- It was the third week of the German as a second language course and students were starting to catch on. Exchanging pleasantries was a cinch.
“Danke schoen,” said family member Jenna Gunshinan as instructor Silvia Johnson, Relocation Readiness manager for Army Community Service, handed her a paper listing common German words.
“Bitte schoen,” replied Johnson.
The free class, offered through ACS, was intended to give students an insight to the language and nuances of their new duty station. During the eight-week course, participants learned everything from traveling by train to ordering a meal in a restaurant and recognizing street signs.
Additionally, the course incorporated hands-on training to aid in the learning process. A bingo game helped students correctly identify numbers and the five important letters associated with the classic game, and a matching game aided in identifying seasons.
Months and days were placed on a calendar and photos of a clock taught students to tell time in German.
While these tools helped many students identify common German phrases, for family member Lillie Santos, repetition is key.
“I can read the words and pronounce them a million ways, probably all wrong,” said Santos with a chuckle. “But hearing it spoken over and over again helps it click; it’s easier to learn.”
Thankfully for Santos, Johnson has all the bases covered.
Reading aloud, the class attempted to correctly pronounce the German words for various countries in Europe.
Frankreich, the German word for France, was a tough one.
“Can you repeat that?” asked family member Morgan Call, adding a “bitte” (please) at the end to let Johnson know her instruction was not in vain.
“Frankreich,” repeated Johnson slowly, pulling the sound of the second “r” from deep in the back of her throat.
The class repeated the word in unison, clamoring around each syllable, producing a sound reminiscent of an orchestra warming up.
“We have a few more weeks,” said Johnson. “You’ll get it.”
While the crash course is a basic introduction into the language, students also felt it introduced them into the host nation’s culture.
“I think if you make an effort to learn someone’s language it’s easier to connect,” said family member Megan Trivisonno. “You can learn a lot about a culture in how they express themselves through their language.”
Family member Amber Kincaid agreed.
“It’s easier to integrate when you at least try to communicate in the language of the country you are living in,” said Kincaid.
It’s true. When one is keyed into the culture it is easier to enjoy, and living in Germany offers an array of opportunities to experience a new culture filled with rich traditions.
Although, Kincaid admitted her motivation came primarily from wanting a taste of home.
“I want to go through the drive thru at McDonalds, order and be understood,” she said. “It’s the convenience of home, just in a different language.”
Whatever the motives, the ACS German as a second language class will easily satisfy the hunger to learn.
Big Mac sold separately.