Sunday, December 14, 2014

B1 Deutsch Exam

As an Ausländer in Deutschland and being married to a German, I had to take the Intergrationskurs (Integration Course) which is subsidized by the government. The goal was to have the participants learn the language up until the B1 level, study some history, culture, etc about Germany, and then take the tests. As I already have my A1 certification from Goethe Institut, I skipped a couple of levels, and only took 400 hours worth of language lessons instead of 600 hours. For my first course, I went to Inlingua where I had to go to class everyday for four hours starting at 9 in the morning.  I then decided to transfer to VHS (Volkshochschule) since they offered afternoon classes for only four days a week.

I must say that German is not the easiest language to learn, and this is coming from someone who has taken up a year of Spanish, French, and a semester of Latin. The first few weeks, even the first month, drove me mad as I was always asking the question "why is it like that?".  As the classes progressed, I stopped over-analysing and just started accepting what was taught to me. I also paid more attention to how the locals say things in order to learn the nuances of the language.

 I guess the most difficult part is (I use the present tense since, to this day, I haven't entirely memorised all the blasted articles for all the nouns!) learning the articles that come with the nouns since they are very important when it comes to conjugating words depending on the cases. As an example, "the table" is der Tisch  and it is a masculine noun (like I said, don't ask why, just accept that a table is masculine).  "I'm putting the bottle on the table" is translated as Ich stelle die Flasche auf den Tisch whereas "The bottle is on the table" is translated as Die Flasche ist auf dem Tisch. The first example is der Tisch in the Akkusativ case while the second example is in the Dativ case.  I'm not even going to attempt to explain this. I think most of my friends, those who speak little German and are also struggling with the language, want to beat me with a stick every time I launch into a mini-explanation of these cases as best I can.

The first part of the exam consists of reading, writing, and listening which lasts for about three hours. I found this part easier than expected, but maybe because the practice tests we did in class were much more difficult. Depending on when your schedule is, you may have a few hours break before you embark on the speaking part of the exam. I had about a four to five-hour break so I decided to head home, grab some lunch, and do some last-minute practicing. Speaking German has always been a weakness of mine (I prefer written German as I have more time to mind my grammar), but I have noticed that after a couple of drinks, I seem to be more confident. Knowing this, I decided to partake in a few glasses of wine before my dreaded test schedule.

The speaking part has three parts: introducing yourself, describing a photo that's shown to you by the moderators and answering any questions they may have about that photo, and last but not the least, discussing or planning something with your test partner. In our case, we had to figure out what course we could take at the VHS together as well as discussing transportation, and some other points. I got partnered with a 60-something-year-old woman, and it was somewhat difficult to have a good flow of conversation since she wasn't really doing a back-and-forth with me. At some points during the test, the moderators had to help out so we didn't get stuck. I was concerned that my partner's uncooperativeness was going to affect my score. Thankfully, the moderators didn't think so as I learned a month later, that they gave me full marks on the speaking part of the exam.

My tip for those about to take the B1 Deutsch test? Don't fret so much come exam day.  If you've been regularly going to class and have really been making an effort to learn, you"ll definitely pass it. Plus, the practice tests that the teachers make you take are more than sufficient to train you for the real thing.

Viel Glück!

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