Trotter, Jonathan

Name: Jonathan
Location of Study: Germany
Program of Study: German
Sponsor(s): Robert Berner

4 thoughts on “Trotter, Jonathan

  1. Journal Entry 1:

    Having completed my first full week of courses at the Goethe Institut, I can make a few observations about my experience in Germany so far and in my language learning. Prior to this trip to Germany, I have had no experience in speaking German. I have only taken a course on reading German for research purposes. Therefore, I was familiar with the grammar and vocabulary for much of the material discussed in class this week. Whenever we have to read a short selection and answer questions about it, I feel very comfortable. However, I have never had to think in German or produce forms to construct even the most basic sentences before. So interacting with other students about myself and speaking German does not come naturally. I’m sure this will come with time and lots of practice.

    During the week and through the weekend, I was able to use this new knowledge in my encounters with people throughout town during the week in simple things such as ordering groceries or meals and navigating public transportation. I also had one basic conversation with two local university students about how and why I was learning German and what they were studying.

    I have been surprised how little information has been available in English, which has forced me to make use of what I already knew, what I have learned in class so far, and a pocket German dictionary to work through signs, menus, schedules, etc.

    One final note worth expressing is that the curriculum and pedagogy of the Goethe Institut seems very sound, and my instructor is excellent. So I am optimistic about my progress in the coming weeks!

  2. Journal Entry 2:

    I have now finished my second week of intensive German in Göttingen and thus have passed the half way point of my time in Germany. It is a very international climate here in the Goethe Institut. In my class all of the other students are from all over the world (e.g. Japan, Korea, Libya, India, etc.), and many of them do not know English very well. So we are forced to speak German to one another, which proves difficult at times given our limited knowledge of German. However, as the course has progressed and our comfort level and vocabulary has increased, we can slowly get to know each other better and have more meaningful conversations in German both inside and outside of the classroom.

    I have noticed that when I am interacting with German speaking people that I can often start a conversation in German (e.g. at the Institut, on a train, or in a restaurant), but once they sense that I am struggling with expressing myself in German or understanding them they tend to switch to speaking English with me. After that transition has taken place in the conversation, it is difficult to speak any more in German with them. Therefore, in order to continue practicing speaking German with people, I will have to try harder to communicate effectively in German for as long as I can as well as be attentive to what they are saying.

    At the same time, I have noticed that my vocabulary and facility in the language is constantly increasing. I can pick up more of what people are saying, even though, thus far, I have found hearing and comprehending native speakers to be very challenging. I know that this element of learning any language comes with a lot of time and many interactions with native speakers.

    Although I have been here for two weeks and have only two weeks of instruction left, I know that my knowledge and comfort with the German language will markedly grow in my remaining time here.

  3. Journal Entry 3:

    During my third week here, I tried to implement the action item I mentioned in my journal entry from last week of trying to have entire conversations in German. I was largely successful in these attempts. Even when I was unable to understand everything someone was saying, I was able to comprehend enough to respond appropriately so as to continue speaking with them in German. My favorite encounter of the week took place at a local market. I was able to interact with local farmers and bakers about their crops and tell some more about what I am doing in Göttingen. Some of the individuals with whom I was interacting were gracious and even corrected my German when necessary.

    That brings me to another point or issue on which to focus my attention in my last week in German. I have noticed that often when speaking German, I simply think in English and then translate, rather woodenly at times, the words and even syntax into German. This often causes confusion for those hearing me. To correct this issue, it is important for me to memorize and practice more idiomatic ways of expressing myself even when there is not an exact English equivalent. In this way, I will be able to eventually think more in German and express myself more clearly rather than simply converting my English directly into German.

  4. Reentry:

    I returned from Germany a couple of days ago and felt that my experience at the Goethe Institut in Göttingen was a success. I thought that their pedagogy was very sound as seen in the great variety of angles from which they approached the learning process, including a lot of interaction of students with each other as well as with the instructor. The course moved quickly and was effective at keeping all of the students engaged and on course with the goals for the course. I would recommend the Goethe Institut in Göttingen to any students who are interested in participating in an intensive language course in Germany.

    As I was leaving Göttingen, I was very pleased to be able to make my travel plans on the train while only speaking in German. The woman who was helping me could tell that I knew enough German to get through the process without speaking in English, even though it would have certainly been easier for both of us. However, she was very patient and spoke slowly or repeated things in a different way until I understood. This exchange left me feeling like I had made significant progress during my four weeks in Germany.