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Nr. 92, 21.10.2017  voriger  Übersicht  weiter

“Great for making new contacts and learning the language!”

Improving your own language skills through personal exchange, while at the same time meeting new people and getting to know new cultures is the idea behind the M.O.I.N.! project initiated by the Graduate Center and the Continuing Professional Development Centre.

Learning by doing: having a relaxed chat out on the lawn makes learning a foreign language easier. The Continuing Professional Development Centre arranges language tandems and groups. Foto: Bevis Nickel

The M.O.I.N.! project – Kiel Sprachtandem (the Kiel language tandem) was founded in 2014. M.O.I.N.! in this respect stands for Meeting Other Interesting New People! We want to bring people together who wish to learn a new language or strengthen their language skills. This can be a PhD student from France who wants to improve her German, or a German staff member from Student Admission and Registry who wants to practice his English. Expectations can vary quite a bit. “Some wish to learn a language intensively and are looking for somebody who is also interested in such an intensive exchange. For them, the classic tandem with two participants is ideal,” explains the managing director of the Graduate Center, Dr Sabine Milde. Others are better off in a group for joint activities, where practising your language skills is more of a pleasant side effect.

“The formats vary a great deal,” says Tanja Zehmke from the Continuing Professional Development Centre. “We have an international group, for instance, who meet once a month for an informal get together and will alternate between different languages throughout the evening. This means that they will speak Spanish for half an hour, then French, or English and so on.” Tanja Zehmke herself had a tandem partner for French, who she mainly helped with learning German, though. And not only that. “We went to the museum together and on trips around Kiel. And I helped her to find a new apartment, advertise for a new tenant, change the electricity provider and so on. This is also part of the language tandem’s philosophy, in my opinion - welcoming and supporting new colleagues from all over the world.”

No matter whether in the group or as a tandem, the idea is for everyone to benefit from the regular meetings by improving their German, English or other language skills. At the same time, the programme helps PhD students or postdocs who come to Kiel from a different country to settle in to their new home. This is an experience shared by Ehsan Biniyaz. The PhD student, who works at the Department of Geography, has been taking part since 2014. “The project is great for new PhD students, who are interested in quickly making new contacts, looking for some exchange and wish to learn the language.” While his original group unfortunately no longer exists, they are still in contact with each other.

“Of course you can do a language course at the university or elsewhere. We are more interested in the authentic aspect, in learning to speak like children learn their first language, by hearing, repeating and correcting one another when we make mistakes. It’s not like an exam, you don’t have to achieve a certain result,” Sabine Milde explains. If none of the group members are English native speakers, their English might not always be grammatically correct. But talking regularly always helps to overcome inhibitions – an important step on the path to speaking in a foreign language. And the positive effects soon become apparent in written communication. “The e-mails participants send me improve so quickly. Soon I can immediately understand what they want, whereas that needed a great deal of interpreting before.”

More than 120 people have registered for the project so far. It is open to all university employees, postdocs and PhD students. If you are interested in participating, please send an e-mail to the Continuing Professional Development Centre. “Four to five times a year we invite people to meetings, where those interested and those already participating can get to know each other and pair up,” says Zehmke.

Kerstin Nees

Contact and registration: Julie Burmeister,, Tel. 0431/880-6518

The next meeting for interested people as well as participants of the language tandem project is on 9 November at 3pm. Its motto is “Festivals of light in the autumn” and will provide information about traditions such as Halloween, St. Martin’s Day and lantern parades.
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