Before coming to Germany, I always wondered how I was going to hold conversations in German. I mean, classroom knowledge and vocabulary were important and I was good at it, but transferring that to real-time speech and thoughts is basically impossible without actual practice.
Fast forward to October 2019. I set foot in Deggendorf and during my first week, I realised that I barely had the confidence to speak in German with public officials (like at the Uni or the Rathaus etc) or even my nearby Aldi! To make matters more difficult, we didn’t have many classes and I have been always slightly slow in making friends in new places (Especially in this context because there was no way I was going to speak with people I didn’t know in German!). Now to be honest, I didn’t really scour through every program that THD had for the students. I was too busy being happy and anxious about moving to Germany that I only had the course and Germany in my sights. I remember sitting in the library just going through the university’s website and the Tandem program caught my eye.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this program, let me just summarize it for you. In this program, you give your details and the language you are fluent in along with the languages that you want to learn. Then you are paired up with an individual who wants to learn the language you are fluent in and knows the language that you want to learn! It is an amazing program where you get a chance to make friends and even talk about random things every week with your partner! (And you get a certificate in the end or if you are an exchange student, it is worth 1 ECTS! How cool is that!).
Anyway, I promptly emailed the program expressing my interest in joining and all the necessary details. Unfortunately, they replied that the matching period was already over BUT I was welcome to join their Halloween party and search for a partner myself. Not really a party person myself, I still thought this would be a good chance to find a tandem partner or maybe find people to talk to in German. Well, I ended up not really finding anyone :P .
Onto the second semester, I was waiting for the Tandem registration to begin so that I would not commit the same mistake as last time. However, this time because of the pandemic, some of the exchange students ended up not arriving and I did not have a partner either. That’s when Lenka (the student who basically runs the program with Dr. Wallner) decided that she would have a weekly online meetup with all the students who registered but did not get paired up. We used to have this talk every Wednesday evening at 6 and it was absolutely awesome! It was one of the brightest points during the lockdown for me and the sheer effort Lenka took for us to make these talks helpful and meaningful was inspiring and it is something that gives me confidence to speak in German to this day. Every week, she used to make a presentation on a topic and tell us about the German perspective of it and we could give our opinions (in German of course). Listening and at times talking for those 1-2 hours every week had a massive impact on my conversational skills. It is far easier when you see a fellow student talking in German because you see the nuances and the informal nature of the language too!
This winter semester was more or less the same with exchange students. I almost ended up not having a Tandem partner before Lenka stepped in and became my Tandem partner herself! She wanted to learn a bit of Hindi (one of the widely spoken languages in India) and I could teach her that. So we spoke online or in person every week in German with me teaching her a few starter words in Hindi.
I am immensely grateful that this program exists and for the fact that the organizing team is always looking for a solution so that even if you do not find a one-to-one partner, you have a lively exchange and enjoy relaxed conversations. I hope more students get to know about the program and register for the next semester! The more the merrier, and it’s fun! (Also I need a Tandem partner for next semester :P)
Till next time,
Ajay Raghunath is an Angewandte Informatik Masters Student (he recently learned the pronunciation) from India. He has been an ESN member ever since and keeps saying he is an Arsenal fan like it is a badge of honour. He loves to eat even though it doesn't seem like he does. He is a traveller who likes to experience new adventures.