19 January 2011


I went to my local Volkshochschule (VHS) yesterday to sign up for a grammar course and another language course next month (I've been taking a little break and very much enjoying it).

Part of the reason that I have been taking my break is that I have been waiting to hear the results of my B1/DTfZ. If I didn't pass, I would repeat the B1.2 and take the test again. I hadn't received my scores yet, so I decided to take a quick one day course in grammar while waiting. (ed. That is, one day a week.)

When I went in to discuss what course to take (all placement in the VHS for German requires a personal discussion, other courses can be registered for on line) the head told me that the scores should be in and they were.

I passed the reading and listening section with 98%, speaking with 91% and I just scraped by in the writing. That was a shock, because I thought that my speaking score would be much lower. With the writing, I had known that I had done badly: the test required a "half official letter" and I had used elements from an "official letter" by accident: huge no-no.

I haven't received the results back yet from the Orienteeringskurse exam, but I'll guess that will be 100%, so I can officially consider myself (and the German government also considers me) to be integrated. I used only 400 of the 600 hours offered to me at a subsidized cost (by the government- German language courses cost 1/2 of what other language courses such as French or Italian or Arabic cost) and none of the possible additional 300 hours. It's unfortunate that I can't use any of these hours to continue my studies, because I think I'll need to progress through at least C1.2 and do additional work in writing to actually be considered moderately literate and capable of getting a job if I look for one here in Germany, but I am also extremely grateful that Germany has provided such an easy and low cost path for me and all other incomers to become more integrated, especially in language skills. It amazes me that people pay 5-6 times the cost of going to the VHS to take lessons at private schools when the teachers at the VHS may be the same teachers they have as well, or far exceed their skills. My teachers have all been wonderful.

I think it's a pity that the US doesn't follow this model: I do believe that one should not be allowed, in ordinary circumstances, to be a permanent resident or a citizen without the requisite language skills. I also believe that once that decision is made, the country with such a belief should provide a path for immigrants to actually gain those skills. Here in Germany, it's not (in my case) much of a subsidy (although it is for the poor or jobless) — it's that the classes are readily available, that childcare is available for those who require it (I did not), that full-time and part-time, morning, afternoon and evening classes are available and that the path to mastery is clearly indicated and achievement is determined through testing, with the availability of additional help as needed.

Germany talks the talk and it walks the walk and I think that is just great.

1 comment:

Helen said...

Congratulations on a good result.