Thursday, December 17, 2009

das Semester-Referat

[ The Semester Presentation ]

Monday was a day on my planner that I had kind of been dreading the entire semester. It was my scheduled day to present my Referat - my final-grade speech - to the class. This took place in my Mittelstufe eins Deutschkurs and has been a class that has stressed many different situations that require one to speak German instantaneously requiring us to constantly use the language orally to our best abilities. For my topic I chose one that related with my studies here in Göttingen and also a topic that I have found interesting during my year so far here in Germany - The national elections that took place in October.

Now like any good student, I have known about this project for weeks now, but as can be seen, a lot has filled up that time. I started pulling together some clips for a slideshow this past weekend and when the translation work started, I realized what was going to be required of me from the project - enough to get me tossing and turning in bed for a while that was for sure. The Referat was a 10 minute presentation completely in German, naturally, and one could use a PowerPoint, but with no helping words or vocabulary ect.

This is where I took for granted the fact that in English I don't have to stand and conjugate verbs in my head or wonder about the gender of the noun nevertheless at the same time of explaining the possibility of Angela Merkel forming a grand coalition again with the SPD if political views of a partnership with the FDP party were not well received during the previous voting season...

I picked a tough topic - something I was interested in, but even so, still requiring a lot out of myself. I went back and reviewed some of my blog posts, translated some vital words and phrases and got a bunch of photos together to address the differences of the many parties in the political sphere in Germany, the issues of coalitions, the interesting Jamaica coalition in Saarbrücken, as well as the background of Angela Merkel and her historical speech in the US last month.

German was my last class of the day on Monday and the project was bugging me the entire time. I never wrote a speech... I did what I normally did for English speeches: Jotted tons of notes and transitions and after the repetition of the work it would be pretty engrained in my head - I was beginning to doubt myself if the same would go so smoothly auf Deutsch.

I was the second speaker in class - right after a detailed speech on genetic modification for diabetes patients... great... - and I passed out my information sheet to the class. Once the initial nerves were out - and a pronunciation correction on the difference between Wählen and Wahlen - the first is the verb to vote and the second is the substantive for an election - I successfully got through the background information of the parties. Albeit my German wasn't perfect - when you are in front of the class, it seems your entire vocabulary bank flies out the window there on the second floor of the OEC building, but stumbled through clarifying what I wanted to say regardless. Not squeaky clean, but after my presentation my professor looked at her watch and internally panicked [reminiscent of my oral exam in Polish class at UofM where I had to just make up 20 more seconds to make the grade... ] über funfzehn minuten. I just spoke over 15 minutes in German... I was so worried I wouldn't even make it to 8.

For being a project that I was so nervous about, it definitely proved a lot to me - first the huge amount of work I need to do. The project got me to brush up on my grammar and use the dictionary a bit more and it reminded me to keep up with the daily challenge of keeping up with my language studies. Even so, with red ears like I always have after a long winded speech, I was humbly marveled by the fact that four months ago I never thought I would be able to do this - not just speak some German, but talk about a university level topic in a foreign language I have really only just begun to grasp. One more project done, and a few more days of class before Weihnachtspause - a break that will be well appreciated.