I went to my first evening of the preparation course for the translator's exam yesterday and am feeling quite conflicted and not a little angry now.
When I first contacted the community college in May the courses for this semester had not yet been finalised. I was in touch with the teacher and he sent me a test exam to try out. He had already told me that based on the level of German displayed in my emails and the fact that I'm a native speaker of English (the course is essentially an English one and focuses much more on translating into English but he agreed to give me extra work and time on translating into German), I shouldn't do the beginner's module but should go straight into the main module (in two sections). However, he then told me to turn up on the day that the beginner's module was scheduled, so that we could take care of the formalities.
I phoned him a couple of weeks ago to confirm that that was correct and he said that he's always in two minds about what to do with native speakers but that it probably would be advantageous for me to do the beginner's module as it's not only about language but also technique and so on. Absolutely fine with me, I can use all the help I can get and I had planned and budgeted for doing all three sections this term, which would have been 1.5 hours on a Tuesday and 3 hours on a Thursday. I'd organised with my boss that I would be leaving a bit earlier on those days and with a colleague who offered to cover in case any urgent work came up on those days that required someone to stay late. And now he was telling me to just come along to the beginner's class and we would see then whether there was space in the Thursday courses. Given that I had been in touch with him since before these courses were even finally planned I was unimpressed to hear that they might be full. And yesterday, following a not terribly impressive class, he seemed to have forgotten that we were going to discuss it and really seemed to think that he had straight out told me the Thursday class was full and that I should just do the Tuesday class. Very, very frustrating. Not least because I remember seeing somewhere that you have to have at least 100 hours of approved classes completed in order to be allowed sit the exam and getting that many hours in a bit less than a year was already going to be tricky.
There is another school that offers the prep courses but as I phoned them a couple of times in May and no-one ever answered, I decided they weren't really worth it. After my experience yesterday though, I tried again today and got through almost immediately. Fairly typical that.
They are far more expensive but it also sounds like I could learn a lot more there. I'm a big supporter of the community college (VHS) but I think that a lot can depend on which individual teacher you get. There are Saturday seminars run by a different teacher as exam prep for what I want to do and they are, by all accounts, really excellent. At 120 euro per module (essentially per 10 or 12 week semester) the VHS is very reasonably priced. The other school charges 150 per month and she was somewhat non-committal on exactly how many hours that meant although finally she did say that the courses are run on Saturdays from 10:00 until 13:30, so 3.5 hours. She also said, however, that if there are fewer people in the class, the work in covered more quickly and so there may be fewer hours. What? None of that. If I'm paying for 3.5 hours teaching a week then I'd like to have 3.5 hours teaching per week thank you very much. Why not just cover more ground with the smaller group? So I'm still not feeling very confident about that school. They don't have a fixed program either but just wait until they have a minimum number of participants and then start the course. I really don't want to get stuck in a situation where I am paying 150 euro per month with no end in sight. I like start dates and end dates and definite plans. One advantage is that they do offer German modules rather than lumping everything together with the focus on the non-German language. So I've sent an email as requested and will wait and see when they get back to me.
In the meantime I'll continue to go to the Tuesday class and have told the teacher that since I had arranged with work that I would also be attending on Thursdays that I will go to the college on Thursday evenings and just study by myself. He has said that he will email me the stuff he is working on in his Thursday classes if I want him to. And rather than just leave the money I'm now not using for those Thursday classes sitting in my account and being frittered away, I have transferred a bit more than half of it as an extra debt repayment, will be adding a little something to my sealed pot this evening and using the rest to post some birthday presents I had forgotten to budget for this month. So although I'm not as filled with enthusiasm for learning as I had expected to be after my first lesson, at least there's that.