Distance Learning in England

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

That first day that Anna and I met we were 4,000 miles away from each other.  Skype is  our information pipeline and how we have both learned a lot. Anna, a high school student from Bowling Green, KY, is living just north of London with her family while her father teaches at a local University.

This is Anna’s first time abroad but it is made easier by being with her family. Although I’ve just had lunch at the office, Anna has just finished her school day, choir practice and dance lessons. Sometimes during our tutor lesson in her Victorian bedroom I get to see her hanging blazer and school uniform. Neither Anna nor I are located at the KET Headquarters in Lexington, KY so we figure out the best times and places to Skype for both of us. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying her stories of doing homework on the train from London and adjusting our meeting time one week because Daylight Savings Time happens earlier in the UK. Her Halloween and Thanksgiving were not too far from how she celebrates in the US. At her school there was Trick-or-Treating and all of the Americans, including Anna’s family, contributed towards Thanksgiving resulting in more food than anyone could finish. While Anna is exploring her surroundings, I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to Skype with her twice a week. She has just finished the semester and is traveling in Germany this week. I left her with some recommendations and well wishes before we paused our tutor lessons. The next time we Skype will be Christmas Eve and in the same time zone for the first time.

Congratulations to this brave young girl for all she’s seen and done in the past 6 months and thanks for letting myself and everyone at KET Distance Learning share the experience!  We are both already looking forward to next semester.

-Jordan Sangmeister (KET German Tutor)

Altheidelberg, Du Feine

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Most small- to mid-sized cities in Germany conjure up romantic images of serpentine cobblestone alleyways, colorful 18th Century facades and the characters who have inhabited them for generations. Heidelberg, a magical town at the mouth of the Neckar Valley in Baden-Württemberg, does this better than the rest.

Tourists from six continents flock to Heidelberg each year to take in the city’s stunning scenery and revel in the history that has taken place  there over the years. Popular English-speaking writers like Mark Twain and Somerset Maugham found inspiration in Heidelberg, and many famous scientists and academics have called Heidelberg home. Robert Bunsen, a chemist most noted for his invention of the Bunsen Burner, Gustav Kirchoff, a physicist who developed revolutionary methods to analyze electrical circuits, and Daniel Bernoulli, a famous mathematician, all studied or worked at the world-renowned Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg. The University, founded in 1386, is the third-oldest in Europe and is considered the best in Germany.

Surrounding the city is the Neckar Valley, a set of forested mountains flanking the Neckar River. Standing behind the Altstadt (Old Town) is the Königstuhl (King’s Throne), the tallest mountain in Heidelberg. The famous Heidelberg Castle is on this mountain and looks out onto the valley and its inhabitants. Walking paths, a high-incline tram and a downhill mountain bike trail are ways to get down. Across the river is the Heiligenberg (Saints’ Mountain), home to the Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Way). This meandering trail was a favorite of Mark Twain and is frequented by countless residents and visitors daily. The Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) takes you back to the Altstadt and serves as an excellent venue for photo-ops or a refreshing beer. More recreational activities can be had on the Neckarwiese, a huge park on the northern bank of the river. Vast expanses of green provide room to play sports, grill out with friends or just lay around. The Neckarwiese is a favorite meeting spot among Heidelberg’s many students.

The Altstadt itself offers the most entertainment. While the Hauptstraße (Main Street) has become commercialized and touristy, all the little side streets and alleys have something original to offer. Although there are a host of bars and nightclubs to choose from in the Untere Straße (Lower Street), the best atmosphere for great food, drink and conversation is Schnookeloch (dialect for “Mosquito Bite”). Here, one street over from the Alte Brücke, one can marvel at the huge collection of student memorabilia – ranging from the colored hats the fraternity students wear to the swords they use when dueling with one another – and feel as though one is part of an unending historical tradition. The tables sport carvings done by students dating back to the 1800s, and the pictures and paintings on the wall are even older. The tavern itself has been around since 1703.

A trip to the castle is always great for an afternoon of fun and discovery. Patrons are amazed by the size of the wine-keg housed in the cellar, and the legend of Perkeo, the dwarf who kept watch over said keg, brings smiles to all. Inside the castle are numerous rooms and salons featuring stunning artwork, and a marvelous garden is only a short walk from the drawbridge. The gardens are open all the time and are a great place to spend a lazy couple of hours and take in the vistas. Directly beneath the castle gardens stands the Haus der Burschenschaft Allemannia zu Heidelberg (House of the Fraternity Allemannia in Heidelberg), made visible by its signature black-white-red flag. This was my place of residence in Heidelberg and consequently my favorite hangout. With its classic styling, private Biergarten (beer garden) and fraternal atmosphere, I always found a way to enjoy myself. One afternoon, at the suggestion of a friend, three buddies and I celebrated the long-awaited summer by leaping from the Alte Brücke into the Neckar. Another time, we snuck into the castle and raised our colors on the turret flagpole. Countless nights were spent merrily roaming about the Altstadt, and I fondly remember the Studentenlieder (student songs) we sang.

My experience living and studying in Heidelberg was the highpoint of my college career. In fact, I was so in love with the city that I decided to pursue my Master’s there. The benefits I reaped from spending so much time in Heidelberg are priceless; independence, new friendships and increased self-confidence are all treasures to be taken from living abroad. Moreover, the language skills you develop when living in a native-speaking country are not to be underestimated or missed. In my opinion, every student should spend a year living in a foreign country, and Germany, more specifically Heidelberg, is an excellent place for this. It is beautiful, engaging, modern and, most importantly, safe. Many young adults do not trust themselves to make this leap, but coming from somebody who has, it certainly pays to do so, and you will not regret you did.

Anki – User Friendly Flashcards

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Anki (taken from the Japanese word for memorizing) is a free flash card program downloadable from the internet. Unlike paper flashcards you could make yourself, Anki employs a spaced-repetition algorithm. This basically means it focuses on the cards you have the most trouble with, and brings back the ones you know well at increasing intervals relating to when you’re likely to have forgotten them. It might sound a little complicated, but luckily, Anki does all of the work for you. You just type in the facts, German vocab and English translations in this case, and Anki takes over.

After a while, German vocab decks could have hundreds of words in them. This is no cause for concern though, because as long as you keep up with your reviewing, you’ll probably not have more than 20 or 30 words to review on any given day. And usually you’ll already know them pretty well, so even that won’t be much work. The benefit is enormous though, because you’re constantly reminding yourself of older vocab words that may have slipped into the dark recesses of your memory. Now the words which have gotten farthest away from you are being brought back systematically. In just ten minutes or so a day you can be reviewing your entire German vocabulary!

There are a lot of fancy features of Anki, which you may or may not feel the need to explore. This includes, but is not limited to, total control over the length of your review sessions, access to copious statistics and graphs of all sorts, and the ability to store your decks online for free and sync them between multiple computers (i.e. use the same deck and home and school without having to review the same words twice!).

To make it even easier, and to encourage your German studies, I went ahead and entered in almost all of the Vokab for German I and II. If you’d like any of these vocab sets just send me a message in the message center on the Distance Learning website with your email address and I’ll send you the goods. Than all you have to do is import what I send you into Anki and you’re ready to study. So do yourself a favor and go download Anki here.

Their web site has pretty good instructions on how to get it set up and going, if you have any questions just message me in the message center.

Example Card

600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951