Deutsch à la carte - conversation lessons as an opportunity to practice speaking German and for intercultural networking

 A woman sits in front of the laptop and takes part in an online seminar
© Getty Images/svetikd

The main thing is speaking: this basic principle applies to any language. That’s why Alumniportal Deutschland followed the motto ‘Deutsch à la carte’ to offer weekly conversation lessons in autumn 2021. These extended the vocabulary of the international participants, increased their confidence when speaking, and involved discussions on key social issues. This format will be continued in a few weeks' time.

Curious, open and incredibly eager to learn, is how Anneli Billina describes the participants in these conversation lessons. ‘They were only too happy to join in discussions about a wide variety of issues’, stated the German teacher from the Goethe-Institut who ran one of these free courses. From the end of September to the beginning of December last year, she met weekly with her pupils who logged in via Zoom from all over the world. ‘They included alumni from Brazil, from Ukraine, from France and from various African countries’, explains Billina. ‘It involved participants from 19 different nations talking in German about the advantages and disadvantages of globalisation, or the difference between art and forgery – some of them would not have been able to afford the trip to Germany to attend in person. That for me was one of the remarkable aspects of this project.’ The aim behind these conversation lessons was not merely the extension of German skills, but also to promote exchange and networking within the international alumni community.

The courses, which were offered within the Community section of the Alumniportal, were aimed at language levels A2/B1 and B2/C1 to enable both beginners and more advanced attendees to take part. With great success, as stressed by Billina’s colleague Dama Thamm. ‘We generally spoke freely, which wasn’t always easy for some. Other participants also faced the challenge of integrating our meetings into their often full daily schedule. Many of them did nevertheless join on a regular basis, and became much more confident as a result.’

Working to counter forgetfulness

Anneli Billina felt that extending their vocabulary was the greatest motivation for the alumni. ‘The participants also used the course as a means to counter forgetfulness, especially if they hadn’t lived in Germany. After all, not every alumnus or alumna has the opportunity to hold a conversation in German in their home country. The greatest challenge for them was therefore to be able to formulate their thoughts in a linguistically sophisticated way.’

The participants faced grammatical difficulties, especially when it came to the rules on sentence structure, adjectival endings and the correct use of gender. ‘Fortunately there was a pre-defined topic for each lesson, which we could prepare for’, emphasised Shabnam Fayezi from Iran, who very much enjoyed taking part in the online courses. ‘I started learning German during the corona pandemic and even then all my courses were online. But what the Alumniportal was offering took me even further forward, because we were covering various issues that concern us all. I learned a lot of new words relating to pollution, for example, that I didn’t previously know.’

The instructors also felt that the outcome was positive. ‘I still remember what was said by a participant from Sri Lanka who couldn’t understand where the problem lies when it comes to time pressure and leisure time stress’, Anneli Billina reflects. ‘She felt that the vast majority of the population in her country go to work to ensure the survival of their family, and would also devote their free time to that very family. She perceived her own life and that of those around her as relaxed and balanced. That made an impression on me.’

New dates in 2022

The Alumniportal Deutschland and the Goethe-Institut intend to continue with the conversation lessons this year. The first round includes a total of five dates and starts as early as the middle of February, with further courses following in June and in the autumn. More information will be provided over the coming days via the and on the .

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