Schooling in the Volkshochschule

As if the thesis wasn’t enough to make me busy for the next few months, I enrolled in an intensive German course at the Volkshochschule or VHS.  Yes, it’s possible to pronounce that word and it’s only made up of three syllables.  Volks stands for ‘people’ (think of the popular German car brand), and hochschule is a compound word literally translating to ‘highschool’.  However, hochschule here refers more to a higher academic level, but no higher than university education.  It’s more like the German counterpart of adult education.

I’ve been contemplating for a while to take another German course.  But the pending thesis, variety of choices, and financial considerations were looming limitations to my pursuit of German fluency (do I hear that’s an oxymoron?).  The last German course I took was more than a year ago during my second semester.  I didn’t enrol in any further German course as my own Master’s programme started to sound like German.  The thought of reading Goethe and Nietzsche remained just that, thoughts.  Sooner or later, though, I wll be able to do it- maybe not get into Heidegger, but further learn German again, that is.

Many language institutes offer summer and autumn language courses between August and September.  I took them during my first two months here in Freiburg at the university’s language institute.  Having taken both the intensive and slow-paced semester courses, I could say the intensive course is way much better.  Like most better things though, they come at a higher price.   That’s where the Volkshochschule comes in.

The Volkshochschule charges about half the price for about the same quality of teaching.  They also offer more than language courses.  If you’re a future van Gogh in the making, you can enroll in a painting class.  Or if you are diet-conscious, take up one of their nutrition courses.  There’s sewing if you want to do a Project Runway.  The Volkshochschule is not strictly open to adults.  Young people alike can learn languages and other skills tailored for them.

One day already passed after the German course started when I signed up.  I saw their schedule on-line the day it started, and after a few minutes of mental tug-o-war whether to take the German course or not, I decided to give it a go.  I called their office but they were apparently done with work for the day.  I planned to be the first client the next day.  Someone beat me to opening the VHS-Freiburg but there wasn’t really a long queue to speak of.  I enrolled right away.  They also offered me a 10% discount for my being a student.  A few minutes later and before the class started, I found myself sitting beside a Korean planning to do his PhD on automotive technology.  The Polish girl across the room is doing her au pair exchange with a German family.   A few have been in Germany for a while and would like to improve their German proficiency.  We come from different countries and are studying German for different reasons.  At least we share a common denominator, which is to further learn another language that could widen our horizons and aspire to get to know another culture.  Also, sprechen Sie Deutsch?


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