German Courses in Delhi: Experiences of a Berlin-based Indian Researcher

Posted by Peter Beyes • Wednesday, November 14, 2012 • Category: Global Career
Garima Mohan is part of an international research team at Freie Universität Berlin working on Indian perceptions of the European Union. After a year in Berlin she came back to Delhi, her home town, for field work. During her 5 months stay, she decided to enrol in a One-to-One German language course with Language Must. In this interview, she talks about her research project, her experiences with German and why she believes it is a must for people living in Germany to pick up the language.


Can you tell us something about yourself: Where do you work/study, how does this project connect India and Germany?

I’m from Delhi and I earned my Bachelor’s degree from St. Stephen's College, Delhi University. For my Masters, I went to the London School of Economics and studied Global Politics. For one year I have been studying for my Ph.D. at the Berlin Graduate School for Transnational Studies, Freie Universität Berlin. It is an English-language programme for international students called “NFG – Asian Perceptions of the EU” and is funded by BMBF (Bundesministerium für Forschung und Bildung - Federal Ministry of Education and Research). It connects India and Germany by trying to promote the exchange of researchers and academics between Europe and India. The other pillar of the project is China, so the multicultural team consists of two researchers from Germany and one researcher from India and China, respectively. Now that my field work in India is over, I have returned to Berlin where I will stay for two more years until 2014.


How long have you been learning German? What was your motivation to pick up the language?

I have learnt German for the past four months in Delhi during my field trip to India. Altogether, I will be in Germany for three years altogether, so this is an excellent opportunity to learn the language. Although my workplace is run in English, I realised quickly that not everyone speaks English in Germany. Without speaking German, you miss out on a lot of experiences of living here, and you can easily get lost! It is a real impediment. And dealing with the city’s administration is impossible if you don’t speak the language. I always needed someone to accompany me in order to manage!

I was motivated to pick up the language because this way it is easier to dip into the city, to understand its people better. It gives me more independence. Since I would be away from Berlin for so long during my field work, I picked up the German course in Delhi with Language Must. I didn’t want to lose touch with the language.


Since you have returned to Germany recently, have you used any of the things learnt in class?

Since I have been back to Berlin, I can feel a remarkable improvement in understanding and comprehension of everyday language use, compared to the last time I was here. I feel more confident reading signs, directions, and engaging in everyday activities like shopping, asking for directions, hailing a cab etc.


What do you like about German and what do you find particularly peculiar?

German is quite logical; it is quite understandable how it works. The pronunciation is peculiar: some sounds, like the “r” from the throat, I am not familiar with. And of course there is a gender for every noun…


How do your family and colleagues react when you tell them that you are learning German?

German colleagues and my family were very encouraging and supportive. It makes sense since I’m living here, I should learn the language. They believe it is a difficult language; the perception is that it is a hard language, but I’ve been doing ok. My parents associate it with the texts of Marx, Heidegger or Wittgenstein, which are very difficult texts. They believe it is a culturally rich language, so they are happy that I’m learning it.


When in Germany, did you get into any funny situations with locals?

Many people outside the university context don’t know much about India. They associate it with certain ideas, for example they ask me: Why do you speak such good English? Or: Why don’t you have an accent like the characters in the TV show “Big Bang theory”? Also, most people speak to me in German because they assume I should know the language.

What do you really like about your environment in Germany? What is really different from India?

I had studied in London and visited Berlin once then. I found it very artistic, laid-back and student-friendly, but I expected it to be more international. At first sight, it looks like there are few foreigners. But once you hear them talk, and many of them don’t speak German, but Spanish or French, you realise it is more international than you had thought at first.

Regarding my environment in Berlin, I really like the university set-up. There are many options, the research environment is great. The course structure is good, the professors are very international – they have taught at many universities around the world. And many students have studied abroad, too. The city itself is very affordable and easy to live in, even as a student. So many things are free and the museums and public transport are very affordable and of good quality. In Berlin each part of the city has a very different character, so there is lots of diversity in terms of neighbourhoods.

Really different from India is the public transport: It feels very, very safe. It is actually “liberating” coming home back alone in the middle of the night. Public services are more visible. In Delhi, you need to have the means to have a really good life.


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Are you interested in learning German in New Delhi? Join our German A1 level preparation courses from January 2013. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Language Must: +91-(0) 11 2649 1817, or click here to send us your enquiry.

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  1. I am learning German in Berlin at the moment. It is only an evening course twice a week, but I really like it. Would be so nice to learn German for real. And also I really like the city which just makes the whole working/studying experience a lot better!

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