Author Archives: Wendy McCollum

Beginning Class


Today was the first day of my German classes. I started in 1A-2.  I confess to being a little nervous and I really didn’t know what to expect.  I came straight from dropping my children off to school and was the first one there besides the instructor Daniella. She began by asking me, in German, my name and where I was from and why I wanted to learn German. I appreciated very much her patience in repeating questions and speaking slowly and waiting for understanding to come instead of clarifying in English. There is a impediment to truth telling when you do not know a language. When asked what my hobbies were I searched for words I knew that could be considered hobbies. Swimming was one of them, because one of my children’s classes recently went. When I was young I swam quite a lot, but now I can’t honestly call it a hobby.

I’m not sure any of the ten of us in the class are from the same country. It was fun to work together, to laugh, and to learn. I learned an important difference between Austrian German and German German today. In German German chair is Stul. Austrian German chair is Sessel. Stul in Austrian German is excrement.  A very important thing to know before asking for a chair!

We began with prepositions and the dative case for definite and indefinite articles. English may be complicated in other areas, but it is a gift to all students of English that nouns do not have gender. There is no rhyme or reason to the gender of German nouns; they simple must be learned. My brain was full by the end of class, but there was something very satisfying in knowing for three hours I had worked in German.  And my children can take comfort in knowing that now Mama too has homework.


An Introduction

My name is Wendy. I have five sons and in America I would often help people remember my name by referencing the book, Peter Pan, which includes a character Wendy who takes care of a group of lost boys. We arrived in Vienna about six weeks ago and plan to be here for close to five years while my husband works on a project at the University of Vienna. My boys have started school in the Austrian school system and are busy learning German. I told them they can come home and teach me.

In preparation of our move I tried to get a head-start on learning German by listening to German lessons on CDs and doing some lessons online. It did help some, though I find I have enough knowledge to ask a basic question but not enough to understand an answer. It is very frustrating and isolating to not be able to communicate well. My hope in taking the intensive course is to develop a wide enough knowledge base to be able to use more German in daily life on a regular basis and continue to expand my vocabulary as I go.

Much of our time in Vienna so far has been busy with visits to various offices filling out necessary paperwork and arranging long term accommodations. We have managed to do a bit of exploring for fun. This weekend we visited two Advent markets where we tasted some delicious local food—the biggest pretzels I have ever seen and some delicious sweet almonds (which are harder to come by here than in America) and enjoyed looking at the goods for sale.IMG_3652IMG_3666