This is an interview with Angelina, a member of our B2 group.
Tell us a bit about yourself Angelina!
I grew up on an island called Crete which is to the South of mainland Greece. There are beautiful beaches, lots of delicious food and the people are welcoming. By the time I enrolled in university, I had moved to the capital, Athens. I studied Occupational Therapy and after my studies I worked as an occupational therapist there. Overall I lived in Athens for ten years. I wasn't happy with my life, however - my dream was to live and work abroad.
I had learned a bit of German as a child, so two years ago I made an important decision with my partner - we decided to move to Zürich, where I could improve my German - and so our adventure began!
And now I am writing this blog from Zürich. There are four official languages in Switzerland, namely German, French, Italian and Romans, and in Zürich, German is the official language. Zürich is a very international city, but the problem is that I cannot work in my field without knowledge of the language. My goal is to learn German and to take the B2 exam. Then I can have my degree recognized and work here as an occupational therapist.
Has it been difficult to integrate?
At the very beginning, integration was very difficult for me. My life partner only speaks English because he works in the technology industry. I spoke a bit of German, but I was a beginner. Luckily, many of the residents speak English and we were able to communicate, for example when we registered at the residents' registration office.
Then I started German courses, but I was very afraid to speak German. I found it easier when I spoke English. Looking back, I think that having this crutch of speaking English at the start slowed down my integration, and ended up making things more difficult for me.
Another mistake was that I did private German courses. When you're in a class with other people, you end up using the language more and you improve more quickly. But I did found some other solutions - I joined a sports club specifically for the integration of migrants. I also joined excursions and art activities only for migrants.
Of course joining Deutsch Gym was one of my best decisions!
How has learning a language helped you in integrating into your new country?
Now I speak better and have more confidence. I feel that I can communicate with residents more easily, e.g. in the supermarket or when I make a doctor's appointment. This feeling is nice!
When I find a job everything will be better because I will be working and speaking with Swiss people. Then I will get to know the Swiss culture and way of life more and participate in Swiss traditions. Integration is a difficult process and one should be patient.
What has been the hardest thing for you in learning German?
From personal experience, the lack of self-confidence was the most difficult. I am learning German alone and only speaking with my teacher. I was very scared when I had to talk to Swiss people. Of course the grammar and articles are difficult but not as difficult as communication.
How has Deutsch Gym helped you in your language learning journey?
And here comes Deutsch Gym! This began a new chapter in my foreign language journey. I remember when I discovered this possibility. I was so happy! Deutsch Gym was exactly what I wanted. A daily group for discussion with other German learners who also want to improve their speaking. What luck! I immediately started with the A2 group so I could feel a bit of confidence initially. What I particularly like is that we can discuss a different topic every day. There is structure and that is very helpful.
How often do you attend Deutsch Gym meetups?
I try to attend the B1-B2 group five times a week.
What other learning methods have you tried? Intensive courses, evening classes, 1-on-1? What worked well?
I only tried 1-on-1, but I regretted that. Being in a class with others gives you many opportunities to use and practice the language.
If you were to learn German again, from the start, what is the one thing that you would do differently? Would you have a different strategy?.
I would take part in an intensive German course group and start by speaking to other people. Speaking is very important for integration and for understanding the language.
Other language learners will be reading this blog. What tips do you have for them in learning languages?
Speak, speak and speak! That's my tip. Besides this, listening and reading are also important. One should be busy with the target language for many hours. Another tip is to be careful of language apps. I find them useless and through them you learn the language incorrectly.
Do you have any resource recommendations that have helped you with your language learning?
My recommendations for you are: Easy German YouTube channel and podcast. There is also Easy Spanish, Easy French and many others. They are very nice people who will help you with the language you are learning.
Deutsche Welle also has many videos and articles for German learners. You should also try to watch and read every film and book in German.
Now for a general, non-language related question! What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
Ronan's Free Month in Deutsch Gym! :)