agi moments

The first time dreaming in a foreign language, finally being able to read a local newspaper or  spontaneously inventing a new word out of necessity—everyone has a different experience when they learn a new language, each with their very own, very individual moments. Moments with language, people and places.

Our students, teachers and team share their moments: their stories, challenges, insights and experiences with language—from funny to thought provoking.

Matthew Wasko

At agi you meet people

agi German student and engineer from Australia


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I met Paul at agi—he was a teacher here. He was a good friend of mine and through him I met Angela—and a couple of years later I married her. So I found my wife through agi!

“In German I can invent new words.”

I remember during my first year at work, after four years of German, I was saying something in a meeting and had an idea in mind and started to say a word that was so extremely long, but also made sense. Everyone understood and it was, in fact, a new word: Strömungsgeräuschreduzierungsmaßnahmen (air-regenerated noise reduction measures)! I was very proud.


“German is a very scientific language.”

I see the language as very structured, with clear rules; in any case many more than in English. In English there are always exceptions. In the technical world, speaking German as an engineer or working in German is a good fit. It’s a very scientific language.

“A language can have an influence on how you think.”

When I speak German, I try to be more precise. You have to know what you’re going to say before you start speaking. The verb comes at the end. In English you can just talk nonsense. You start with the verb and what comes later…? We’ll see when we get there. So I think a language can have an influence on how you think.

Stefanie and Daniela

I feel comfortable at agi

German teachers at agi

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Steffi: I travel 120 kilometers every day, even though I could also work in my home town. But here I can really make a difference. In other places the structures are so entrenched. Here, suggestions from colleagues are taken on board and seen positively. This is not always a given.

Daniela: It really contributes to your personal satisfaction when you’re not browbeaten or put under pressure or feel like you’re a number.

“There are wonderful moments in lessons”

Daniela: In A1, students still only have limited resources. There they just repeat what you give them, but in A2 they start to speak. When someone just starts [to speak] in a very simple way, I find that to be a wonderful moment. But I also have such flashes in B2, when someone expresses themselves with a little more sophistication, with yet another subordinate clause. I find that very gratifying—when you see that what you are attempting to convey is being absorbed.

Steffi: It’s great when the students say, “Do you remember, you told me that in B1” and that was half a year ago. I love that. For TestDaF there's also a special situation. The students have  never had to speak continuously and spontaneously for so long. And in the exam it’s like a piano composition that they’ve practiced for so long and at one point it just comes together.

“I am two different people”

Daniela:I’m a Swabian. No, that’s not true at all. My mother is from Stuttgart, but I grew up in Pforzheim. But actually I have completely different roots. My father is from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. I only got the slavic high cheekbones. Nothing is left of the dialect. When I first started teaching, I found it unnatural that I didn’t feel like myself. In the meantime, it’s a role I just slip into.

Steffi:I also have my teaching language. I usually talk very quickly, but in class I switch immediately.That means I open the door, go inside, speak differently and am different. I adjust my speaking pace to the students.

“At the start I was naive”

Daniela: I had studied English and applied at agi because I wanted to work as an English teacher. I was asked if I could imagine teaching German. I said, “Of course. I can do that.” I started with A1 and learned with the students.

Steffi: I studied German as a Foreign Language. But theory and practice are far different things. I was still really wet behind the ears. In my fifth semester I had a one-year internship in China. The teaching methods there are completely different than at the [German] university. I had to completely forget everything I had learned. I had to manage lecture-style lessons. The students were difficult to motivate. Working in Germany with people who were used to modern teaching methods was a relief.

John Fowler

A new language changes a person

English teacher and artist from England

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Yes, because he rediscovers the whole world dressed in new clothes. That is dressed in a new vocabulary and new words. I think the habit of speaking a language, only if you speak it a lot, does have an effect on the whole personality, the way of presenting oneself. And gestures, that's an important point, because I was in Italy for a long time, and the intonation with which one speaks and the gestures which accompany it belong very much together. Just as there are different styles of being angry or of laughing, these seem to reach quite deep into the personality.

“I'm a very traditional teacher really”

Perhaps I emphasized reading texts a lot more than was fashionable or even approved of in the profession itself. I probably talked too much. But on the other hand, as a student of language, I always found that the most valuable thing in the room was the talking teacher from whom and only from whom I heard a lot of the target language spoken deliberately so as to be comprehensible. So it seemed to me, seems to me still, that the fashion to discourage teachers from talking was crazy. It means that you're not using the most useful resource you have in the classroom.

“A teacher has got to have a sharp eye”

It doesn’t matter what his political or life philosophy is, but he’s got to have a sharp eye for developing boredom in the students, glaziness of the eyes we’ve been talking about, and liven it up somehow if necessary or change the theme or do something. That’s the most important thing. It doesn’t matter if the teacher is idealistic, or a cynic, whether he’s of a tragic disposition or a comedian, that doesn’t matter. That’s secondary.

“The vocabulary will stick to their minds like thick soup”

Well stories are important because you arouse curiosity and the students want to know what happens next, a lot of vocabulary is smuggled into them by that means. I know there was a dogma about then that used to say the more interesting the content is of a piece of writing or a speech the less value it has as teaching material. This was absolutely the opposite of my experience. My experience has always been that the more interesting something is, the likelier the students are to forget that this is a lesson and the likelier it is that the vocabulary will stick to their minds like thick soup being put through a sieve, more will stick to it.

Lyane-Antonin Mavoungo

I have a lot of Aha-moments

agi English student and Aerospace Engineering university student

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There are some things that I’ve already heard ten times at school but I only understand and remember them once I’ve heard them here. You think differently when you get a different explanation or different examples or anecdotes. You say, “Yeah, right, okay, must be why it’s that way, now I finally understand.”

“When I talk, I forget I’m speaking English.”

My English course is a communication course. The teacher brings in texts and we discuss them. Sometimes we also just talk about what we’ve done that week or what we have planned for the weekend. While I’m talking, I forget that I’m actually speaking English. I just try to make myself understood. I say what I think.

“My teacher is very engaged.”

My teacher, who I had for a very long time, was always very engaged in his work. When I met him, he already had a family and worked during the week but he still came Saturday mornings to teach me and the others, always with a lot of dedication. We often went over time. I found this really cool because he never interrupted a discussion, although he probably had a lot to do on Saturday. And every week was something new. His dedication really touched me.

“I learn something every Saturday”

What motivates me to come to class every week and pay for the course out of my own pocket is that I know we’ll discuss things in English. And that is really the best time I can invest, speaking English, otherwise I rarely have the chance. But here I know that I’ll learn something every Saturday morning.

Weiqi Liang

In German I’m a different person

agi German student and music student from China

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When I speak Chinese I’m not so western. Western means that you share your opinions more openly and are more expressive, gesture more. When I speak English and German I’m more open-minded and like speaking more.

“I have a favorite word”

My favorite [German] word is “Kopfkissen” [head pillow]. In English “kiss” is like “kissen”. “Kopfkissen” sounds very soft. I like that.

“I like grammar”

It’s a little strange. I like grammar a lot because it is like a game. Even separable words (in German) are fun for me ar interesting. But I hate to learn new words.

“My personal tongue twister”

is [the German] “R”. We don’t have that in Chinese or other Asian languages. But if you want to speak really good German, you have to learn it! “Rhabarber” (English: rhubarb), for example, is very long and very loud and unfortunately I just can’t say it.

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