Learning German 9: Unzufriedenheit der Trägheit (Dissatisfaction of Inertia)

Ich möchte manchmal schneller Deutsch lernen. Ich wollte letztes Jahr die A2-Prüfung machen. Aber ich habe es damals wegen des Coronavirus nicht gemacht – die Prüfungen wurden abgesagt. Im Unterricht haben wir “Begegnungen A2+” beendet und haben nun mit dem B1-Lehrbuch begonnen. Ich habe ungefähr ein Viertel des Materials gelernt. Außerdem habe ich mir alle 76 Folgen einer Online-TV-Serie der Deutschen Welle, die “Nicos Weg” heißt, angesehen und die angehängten Übungen gelöst. Die Serie ist für Lernende, die das Niveau B1 erreichen wollen und schließt mit einem Test ab, bei dem ich 89% erreicht habe. 

Ich habe ein paar Modellprüfungen bei dem B1 Niveau gemacht. Normalerweise bekomme ich beim Lesen und Hören mindestens 90 Prozent der Punkte. Ich finde, dass die Schreiben-Aufgaben nicht zu schwierig sind. Die Texte, die man schreiben muss, sind relativ kurz (insgesamt circa 200 Wörter) und man hat eine Stunde dafür. An der anderen Seite sieht die mündliche Prüfung sehr anspruchsvoll aus. Ich weiß nicht, ob ich sie bestehen würde, wenn ich sie heute machen würde. Ich habe das über A1 gesagt und dann allerdings 100 Prozent bekommen, aber B1 ist viel schwieriger. Ich möchte die B1-Prüfung später in diesem Jahr machen. B1 ist gut, denn es ist wichtig für die Einwanderung.

Sometimes, I would like to learn German more quickly. Last year, I wanted to do the A2 exam. However, I did not at that time because of the coronavirus; the exams were cancelled. In class we’ve finished “Begegnungen A2+” and have now started with the B1 textbook. I have covered about a quarter of the material there. Additionally, I’ve also watched all 76 episodes of an online TV series from the Deutsche Welle called “Nico’s Weg” and completed the attached exercises. The series is for learners who want to reach level B1 and concludes with a test, in which I scored 89 percent.

I have done a few B1 practice papers. Normally, I score at least 90 percent in reading and listening. I find that the writing tasks are not too difficult. The texts that one has to write are relatively short (in total about 200 words) and one has one hour for that. On the other hand, the oral exam looks very challenging. I don’t know if I would pass if I took it today. I did say that about A1 and got 100%, but B1 is a lot harder. I would like to do the B1 exam later in this year. B1 is good, because it is important for immigration.

Measuring one’s language skills, and perhaps more importantly what one can do with a language is always challenging. At the beginning, there were clear milestones for improvement: I’d learn a phrase or expression that would be useful (e.g. Ich komme aus Singapur, which means I come from Singapore), or alternatively learn new vocabulary items (e.g. gelb means yellow). Towards the end of A1 this shifted towards building constructions with connectors (e.g. Ich kann Chinesisch sprechen, weil ich es in der Schule gelernt habe – I can speak Chinese, because I learned it in school); various other types of constructions and connectors came in in A2 and B1, which added trickier structures (e.g. Je mehr ich lese, desto mehr lerne ich – the more I read, the more I learn; adjectives can generally be converted to nouns by adding a d in the right place e.g. reisen means to travel; der Reisende means the traveller).

Of course, there are still new vocabulary items that are coming in. As part of homework I learned the words Oberschenkel and Unterschenkel for the parts of the leg above and below the knee (thigh and calf, respectively). Progress, however, now appears less directly measurable in that I’ve covered (whether in class or externally) most of the required grammar for B1. I’m not particularly surprised or confused by say the passive voice, a statement in future tense or adjective endings, even if it may take me a while to be certain that I’ve done it correctly when writing a sentence (similarly, accuracy when speaking may not be good). There are still some areas where I know that I have not learned the grammar yet (e.g. Konjunktiv I, which is a tense often used in reported speech), but these generally seem less urgent.

I think the key areas for improvement on my end involve fluency and accuracy, which are a lot more difficult for me to assess. I know that when saying I would like the red apple that I can’t just say Ich möchte den rot Apfel; the adjective needs to be declined, and the correct version is Ich möchte den roten Apfel. However, I might accidentally say Ich möchte den rote Apfel, and I might not know that I had made a mistake (and, even though it may seem a bit primitive, communication would probably be achieved). My German teacher would of course catch and point out such a mistake, but I don’t know if others would. I’m also fairly confident with the connectors as used independently, but am somewhat less certain when stacking them – for example, in my most recent essay, I wrote

Obwohl ich die Wohnungen nicht persönlich besichtigen wollte, ging ich trotzdem, weil ich glaube, dass Fotos und Texte kein Ersatz sind.

This means “although I didn’t want to view the apartments personally, I went nonetheless, because I believe that photos and text (descriptions) are not a substitute (for that)”. Getting a sentence like this right is still difficult for me in German, which is problematic for me because I often want to express ideas following a similar pattern.

There is a related point on vocabulary. At some point in primary school, I was given the advice to, as far as reasonable, avoid repeating words. For example, my good friend and I went to a good restaurant, where I had a good steak; depending on the actual details, something like A close friend and I went to an exquisite restaurant, where I had a masterfully executed steak would sound more interesting and engaging. I’m starting to have to deal with this issue in German as well; initially I was happy to be able to simply get my ideas across, but I’ve now been asked to vary my ideas and expressions more. I think the verb I have the most problems with is finden (to find, both in the sense of locating something and drawing a conclusion from experiences – this second usage is difficult). I know that glauben and denken (believing and thinking respectively) are often OK, but I find (pun intended) that they don’t have quite the same tone or mood.

In general, it seems my compositions have had a bit less red ink on them, which is good – though progress certainly isn’t as clearly measurable as it was many months ago.

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