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Studying German at Sprachinstitut TREFFpunkt

- copy of an original student comment (via e-mail) -

Jeremy wit Maria from Spain at the Stammtsich

Hallo Alexandra, Dani und alle

I am sending the enclosed attachment with my thoughts about my marvellous time studying at Treffpunkt. I have waited a few weeks to reflect on the experience. (And to be honest the period since I have been back at home has been very busy!) I wanted to be able to say something from a personal perspective about my stay, which was not just a repeat of what previous students have commented on your website. (Although everything good they said about the school was true!) Unfortunately this is in English because it would take a long time for me to translate it. Also please use whatever parts are useful for you on the website. I am happy to be emailed by anyone wanting further comments about my stay in Bamberg and who, perhaps, are wondering whether to come to Treffpunkt.

Mit vielen Grüssen aus Leeds



January 2008

Here are a few of my thoughts about my stay in Bamberg and studying at Treffpunkt for four weeks in November 2007.
(It has become longer as I wrote it!)

Since my first contact with the school through the website in early 2007, I felt ‘safe’ and ‘challenged’, which, of course, is the best sort of learning environment. With these two qualities in mind, I will share my experiences about my time at this excellent language school. As with all organisations, the quality of what I experienced mainly comes down to the marvellous school staff and Alexandra’s excellent leadership.

The Website.
When I first found this site in early 2007, it gave an immediate impression of a well-organised, caring organisation, situated in a historical and interesting town. There is a lot of information. (I still have not explored all the links!) However, it was easy to find the important sections, when I was trying to decide which school to come to in Germany.
My background is of a therapist working in the NHS in England, 60 years old, and just retired. I had not been good at languages in school, but I had been learning German at night classes for 2 years because my wife and I like to travel in Germany and I enjoy studying the language. The process of applying to come to the school was quickly and easily accomplished and my concerns were carefully and quickly addressed by email. (E.g. Would I be too old? Any problems about me normally eating vegetarian?)
The website, importantly, made it clear that the more German, that I could hear, read or study before I came, the more I would get out of my time in Bamberg. There were many good ideas on the website as to how to do this and I used them in the 6 months between applying and coming to Bamberg. The only problem that I had with the website was downloading the ‘placement’ test and that was, more than likely, due to my lack of IT skills.

Accommodation and Arrival.
I had decided to stay with a family, whilst in Bamberg. It was absolutely the right decision for me. The couple, with whom I stayed, were so friendly and helpful; far beyond anything I could have expected. I was made to feel very much at home, but could have my own space when, for example, I needed to study. The school obviously takes great care in matching students with the families, with whom they are going to stay. Although my hosts both spoke good English, they were kind and patient enough to speak to me almost completely in German and cope with my ‘stumbling’ replies. I had good contact with them by email before arrival and so, together with the excellent information about getting to Bamberg on the Treffpunkt website, I was able to plan my arrival and cope with unexpected occurrences, for example, my plane being late due to fog over Frankfurt. I wanted to arrive fairly leisurely, so I stayed the night, before I was due at my hosts, in an inexpensive but good hotel in Würzburg. Time at the school. At every stage at the school, I found that everything was well-explained, ‘natürlich meistens auf Deutsch’, with a notice-board that gave extra information. This was particularly true and important on the first ‘orientation’ day. Again it was useful that I had read a bit of the information about Bamberg on the website. Although my host family lived in a suburb of Bamberg, it was easy and cheap (with a monthly bus ticket) to travel into the town centre; about 10-15 minutes. I am not a cyclist, and November is not the best time of year to cycle, but it would also be easy to cycle in daily. I often walked the distance and enjoyed exploring different routes. In contrast to when I am at home in a big city in England, it always felt safe to walk home, even late in the evening.

The teaching and study.
My weekday, morning classes were with 7 other students of different ages and nationalities. The ‘placement test’ had placed me in the right level of class. I knew my German grammar was not too bad. (When I was at school, we learnt considerable English grammar and that has always been helpful when learning German.) However, my poor German speaking skills were considerably helped by others in the class. All but one of the other students were considerably younger than me, but, it turned out that this was not a problem. The fun in the sessions with our teachers, Sarah and Claudia, and the fact that there could be changes to accommodate the different needs of the group, made it feel safe to experiment with ‘having a go’. The homework, study book and tests every two weeks helped me to focus on the learning, but it was never too ‘heavy’ or ‘serious’.
I had arranged to have one individual lesson per week when I originally applied. These usually take place in the afternoon or early evening for students with morning group classes. Mine were with Martin and, after the first excellent session, I arranged to have 2 sessions per week. In the sessions, I could, with advice from Martin, set my own learning aims, which was to speak German as much as possible, whilst keeping it reasonably correct. Personally, more than 2 or 3 would have left me with not enough time to explore Bamberg, organise notes, do homework and take part in as many as possible of the activities and visits that Treffpunkt either organises or recommends each week. These activities were always good and mostly excellent.

Free time.
I had expected to visit other towns and, maybe, get as far as cities, such as Leipzig, but I found that there was so much to do and experience in Bamberg and around, and on the Treffpunkt outings, that I did not do this. Even in November, there was plenty to do, despite people frequently telling me that it was better in the summer. Some of the time it was wet, but I enjoyed the time when it was cold with snow; something that, unfortunately nowadays, rarely occurs in England. I decided to go where German was being spoken and found that, even if I did not understand it at first, some level of understanding often started to occur. For example, visits to the Bosch sparking plug factory and to a Pharmaceutical manufacturing firm, and an ‘easy to understand’ play, concerts and a visit to the former East German border, to meet a former border guard. I enjoyed the weekly ‘Stammtisch’ in a local ‘Kneipe’, as well as meeting up with other students and teachers at the several ‘Brauereien’. I even listened to children’s stories being told in one of the local bookshops, having stumbled across the session, by chance! My thinking was that my wife and I can explore Germany, hopefully, in the future but, during this stay, I could enjoy myself in the Bamberg area and concentrate on learning German.
Incidentally, whilst in one of the bookshops, I came across ‘Deutsch Sprachkurs 2’ – digital publishing: (Der Selbstlernkurs für Fortgeschittene.) I bought it to use at home on my computer and, so far, it seems excellent. It has voice recognition and, therefore, I find I can practice my pronunciation and speaking as well.

In summary, you can probably tell from these, perhaps over-long, notes, that I can be a bit too serious, but the school encouraged me to have ‘fun’ and try out lots of new things. This can be summed up by the fact that I want to go back to the school for another period of study!

Jeremy                                                                                              January 2008
Leeds, England


Ready for a city walk in Bamberg


Jeremy during the certificate handover at the last day at school
Jeremy with friend at the TREFFPUNKT Stanntsich

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