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