I tried to start a German class. I went to the Volkshoheschule (School for the Folk, like community college) in our neighborhood, Schöneberg, to take German I, intensive. It’s three hours every day. I was pumped and everything started great. My classmates were serious and sweet and friendly. I was the only American, there were a couple Spanish speakers, a handful or Turks. We learned “What’s your name” and “Where are you from” and “What do you speak.” Then we had a break. The teacher pulled me aside along with the Swedish girl and the Japanese boy.
“This class is going to be too slow for you,” she said. “This class is for slow learners, people who don’t know how to learn another language or who need to go extra slow. You will be bored.”
She was right – I was already bored, now that she pointed out how slowly we were going. And I was flattered that in just an hour and a half I’d distinguished myself as a bright learner. She must be such a perceptive teacher! As I recounted this to Aaron, though, he remarked that she’d targeted only we First-Worlders. She expected a room full of Turkish wives in headscarves, and we didn’t fit her profile. Looking back, as a teacher, I would have picked out a few more of us as unsuitable for the slow class. Sure enough, the other quick learners I noticed were all head-scarfed. Aaron said he’d witnessed a lot of this sort of stereotyping when he was in Berlin before.
The next day, we went to the regular class which had started two weeks ago. No headscarves and generally lighter complexions filled the classroom. The regular teacher rejected us too, though, because her class is full and we are too far behind.
So, I abandoned the Volkshoheschule and instead enrolled at the Deutsche Akademie, which reminds me of Kaplan for German. I had to take a test to find my placement. I am a brilliant test taker, so although I know virtually no German, I tested into the second level. Now my classmates are a Brit, an married Australian couple, a Romanian, an Italian, a Thai, and a Frenchman. They must be good test takers too, because only the Romanian knows any German!