Özge Tahiroglu

A woman in a black blouse stands smiling in front of a wall covered with bougainvillea. She her head slightly bended to the left and her long black hair falls over her left shoulder.
Photo: Özge Tahiroglu

Özge, you have been teaching German at the Goethe-Institut Cyprus for five years and are a German teacher at the Türk Maarif Koleji School in the north part of Nicosia. You studied political science and German as a foreign language in Leipzig and Heidelberg and had contact with Germany very early in your life. What were your first experiences with the German language? What do you like about the German language?

Our neighbours are Germans from Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz. Since my earliest childhood I have liked the melody of the German language, so I was very interested in learning the language and also getting to know Germany while I was still at school.  When I was thirteen years old, our neighbours Renate and Manfred invited me to Germany and made it possible for me to attend classes at a grammar school in Neumarkt as a guest student. After this experience, it was clear to me that I would later study in Germany.

Today, as a German teacher, I find the German language an immeasurable treasure of diversity and terminology. It connects me again and again with Germany.

Even before the checkpoints were opened, you took a German exam at the Goethe-Institut. You probably can't imagine how that went back then.

At first, in 1994, it was very difficult to get in touch with the Goethe-Institut because there was no telephone connection between the north and the south. I still remember that it was only possible to make phone calls via the UN.  There was also a contact to the German consul who held office hours in the North at certain intervals. Thanks to this connection, I was able to register for a German exam at the Goethe-Institut.  It was difficult to get official permission to cross the Green Line.

I still remember exactly how exciting and frightening the road to the Goethe-Institut through no-man's land was. The walls of the houses were covered with bullet holes.  The way I had to walk all alone was very scary for me. In contrast, the warm welcome I received from the teachers at the Goethe-Institut was unforgettable for me.  My first encounters with Greek-speaking Cypriots took place in the garden of the institute while we were all excitedly waiting for the oral exams.  Friendships developed from these encounters that still exist today.

You are currently the only Cypriot among the teachers. How do you feel as a Turkish-speaking Cypriot at the Goethe-Institut, what is the atmosphere like in the teaching staff and in the classes?

To this question I can only say that I feel at home. For me personally, this place is a piece of Germany. I find the atmosphere pleasant, especially since the love of the German language and culture unites us all.  It is a great joy to see Turkish- and Greek-speaking Cypriots learning German together. When I was a child, I could only dream of this. And it is nice to see that children and young people from both sides have the opportunity to get to know each other and exchange ideas.

During the pandemic, not only were the checkpoints closed, but the German courses had to be switched from face-to-face to online teaching. You are one of the teachers who took over online courses at a very early stage. What opportunities do you think online courses offer?

By switching to online teaching during the pandemic, the Goethe-Institut has maintained the continuity of learning. This has shown that the Goethe-Institut was and is still accessible to the whole island. In addition, I have had the experience that people who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to come to the institute or who also live abroad have now taken the chance to learn German.

The Goethe-Institut is located in the Greenline and has a beautiful garden. Why do you think people should take a face-to-face course with us?

Participating in a face-to-face course offers many opportunities, especially for the learners to meet and get to know each other and exchange ideas. Spending time in the garden is a nice balance to the German lessons within the "four walls".  The Goethe-Institut with its inviting garden is a place of encounter and also a point of attraction for people passing through the buffer zone.

The Goethe-Institut in Cyprus is 60 years old. What do you wish for the future?

For the future, I wish for the Goethe-Institut Nicosia that it continues to build a bridge between Cyprus and Germany, over which more and more people from the entire island walk together.