There is one German institution I love: the “Volkshochschulen”. They are registered societies for adult education and they offer a wide range of (evening) classes. They do not cost much and anybody can join in. Especially int the country side they offer a possibility to be social and try out new things. In a small place like Hohenlockstedt you will find an interesting curriculum, featuring languages, f. ex. English and Danish, or you can learn all about Mexican cooking, sewing, knitting and playing the guitar. Alternatively you can try out acrylic or oil painting, learn to relax with Qi Gong or you can join a group going regularly by bus to the theaters in Hamburg. It is also possible to gain certificates, for example in computer skills.
Some years ago I took a Norwegian class at the Volkshochschule in Hamburg but had to give it up as the times collided with my work hours. When I noticed that there is a Norwegian class taking place on Sunday mornings and just a few kilometers from here, I decided straight away to give it a try. So this morning I got up exceptionally early, walked the dog and set out to go to school. Volkshochschule almost always take place in local schools and I felt as if I had travelled back in time, when I saw children’s drawings decorating the walls and a forgotten anorak hanging on the coat rack.
Our teacher greeted us with a big smile and after a brief greeting she started, firing away questions at us in Norwegian,checking our knowledge. I liked her straight away, and I love her teaching methods. She made us talk with each other all the time and let us do a lot of role-plays, I got paired up with Anne and Marlene and soon found myself exchanging views of what I like to do in my free time. Vocabularies kept popping back into my mind and time was flying. Three hours passed very quickly, and when we were finished for the day, I felt happy. I love learning and if I didn’t have to work I would spent my days reading and going to classes. But that’s another topic.
We are 8 students and the other ones have been learning together for about one and a half years. At 54 I am almost the youngest in class. Marlene, who is 75, is the most advanced learner with a beautiful pronunciation. She is also studying English on Mondays, because, as she was quick to mention, she likes going on a lot of holidays all over the world. She is very proud of her son who is working in Japan. Today she mentioned at least three times that he gave her an iPad for Christmas and when I asked her (in Norwegian of course) whether her grandchildren like playing football she subtly let me know that they do not engage in such mundane sports. Still, it is fun to study with her as she is quick to learn and not afraid to talk.
When I asked Anna why she is learning Norwegian, she answered that she is learning languages to train her brain, and she too is going to English classes. She has just come back from Colorado, where she visited family. It seems that each woman in class either has a son, daughter or grandchild living or working abroad and I could sense that there is a little bit of competition going on, about whose children are the most successful. The three men in our class were quiet, only talking when being asked and not answering with more words than necessary. I bet they will get livelier the moment we start talking about fishing and camping. Anyway, I am very much looking forward to get to know this group a bit better, after all, going to school, also as a grown-up is about being social just as much as about learning, isn’t it?