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Article: Exploring an intriguing and beautiful country as an ELA

By voyage reporter Liam Revell

Hallo aus Berlin!

I'm Liam (or Herr Revell to my pupils), I'm 21 and I study German and History at the University of Leeds. I am currently on my compulsory year abroad working as a British Council Language Assistant at a secondary school in Berlin.

Learning a language at an advanced level was the best life choice I have ever made. Not only do I get to experience studying a language at university but I am currently having an awesome Auslandsjahr (year abroad). As I write this I am half way through a nine-month placement as an English Language Assistant at the Bertolt Brecht Oberschule in Berlin.

Hands-on experience

My professional role is to aid language teaching by providing another pair of hands in the classroom, but, more importantly and, more importantly, to provide the skills and knowledge of a native speaker. My main tasks are to either 'team-teach' with another teacher, or to take groups out and help them with their spoken language skills - and watch them laugh at my rather broad northern accent! I am quite proud of the fact that there are now a bunch of Berlin students who say bath without an 'r' sound and who can sing Maybe by Oasis with an authentic Mancunian accent. My school have been very welcoming, and the teachers fought over having me in their lessons. Native English speakers are apparently very much in demand. I also expressed an interest in teaching as a career, so some teachers have offered me the opportunity to lead full lessons and are giving me pointers on how to improve.

School extras

As well as my role as an assistant in the classroom, I also run an English Society (AG or Arbeitsgemeinschaft). This consists of one three-hour session every week in which people are able to drop in for as long as they want, have a free cup of PG Tips and some real English biscuits (or scones or crumpets on the odd occasion). We even have English AG mugs and 'proper' tea. We speak only English and I prepare topics for discussion, ranging from the media to politics and from history to X-Factor. The German students' level of English is high, but this is only because they receive so much more English teaching in comparison to students in the UK, and because they start learning English at a much younger age. You shouldn't be put off by this fact. Again thanks to UK-German Connection, my English AG is now partnered with a German Club in Macclesfield and we exchanged Christmas parcels filled with Stollen, Lebkuchen, crackers, chocolates and song sheets. We plan to start a pen pal exchange programme with the younger years and hopefully create a bilingual cookbook by the end of our placement. Bringing the British culture to the students is also integral to my work. I try to address a new theme each week and by the end of the year I hope to have created a big group of Anglophiles in the school.

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