Language Assistant in Germany

Hi everyone! My name is Poppy, I’m 23 years old and I’m from Plymouth. I studied German at Swansea University, which included a year abroad at Universität Regensburg. I enjoyed living in Germany so much, that I decided to do it again- this time as a Language Assistant.

Meeting other Language Assistants

I liked being able to study a range of subjects at school but particularly enjoyed languages, choosing both German and French for GCSEs and continuing with German at A Level. I was attracted to the smaller class sizes, school trips abroad and the idea of being able to communicate in another language. Although even back then I think I knew that it wasn’t necessarily the language itself that excited me, but the access to a new culture.

I really enjoyed my time at Swansea University. My subject was German but that definitely didn’t mean just studying the language. During my degree I also had access to various culture and film modules and even took a module on how young learners learn foreign languages. I particularly enjoyed writing reviews for modern language films in both English and German. Taking a subject with a small number of students meant that the lecturers got to know us personally and had plenty of time to help us outside of classes.

How I feel towards learning German actually seems to fluctuate a lot. At times I’ve found learning German exciting and at other times, I’m frustrated with the seemingly slow progress and lack motivation. However, now that I’m living and working in the country, I’ve found that my attitude towards the language have changed. I use German multiple times a day at the moment and whilst I make plenty of mistakes, I’m able to communicate and that’s what matters! Although I don’t always feel passionate about learning the language, what I really like is the access to another culture it’s given me as I’m able to communicate with locals.

I’m currently based in a secondary school in Lübeck in North Germany. One of my favourite tasks is when I get to take small groups of students outside the classroom to practise speaking. This is the chance to build a relationship with the students and discuss our different cultures and experiences. This is, in my opinion, my most valuable role, as it gives the students a chance to build up their confidence away from the main classroom and they have more freedom to talk about what interests them.

One of my biggest challenges is probably knowing what my role is. It tends to be different in every class, depending on what the teacher would like me to do. I’ve found that I feel much more useful in classes where the students are really motivated to learn English as they’re more likely to ask for help. My advice would be to talk to the teachers about what you think works well (which may take a bit of trial and error to find out). The teachers at my school have been really open to my ideas and thoughts.

One of the best things about working as a language assistant is the contact with native speakers. Last year I was at Universität Regensburg for a year and whilst it was great fun, I found it hard to meet Germans (as I was in an Erasmus-bubble!). This year I’m surrounded by native speakers and therefore have an opportunity to speak the language on a daily basis.

Another great thing about being a language assistant is the amount of free time you get. This has meant that I have had plenty of time to travel; Copenhagen, Hamburg and Berlin are just a few examples of places I have been so far. I have also recently started volunteering with the Tafel (Foodbank), which is another great way to meet people and speak German.

Although I’m unsure about my future plans, living abroad has been a really valuable experience for me. I now feel very comfortable living in Germany and also feel confident about giving living in another country a go at some point. I have met so many great people over the past couple of years who have really had an impact on me. I now have friends all over Europe and some even further afield. I’m not yet sure how languages will play a role in my future, but the relationships I have built through learning/knowing a second language are incredibly important and I really feel that I have grown as a person.