Dear Johannes, you were the first ever German teacher in Cyprus. You taught German at the Hotel Management School for 25 years, taught at several public schools, are a tourist guide yourself and taught at the Goethe-Institut for fifty years. Generations of German students at the Goethe-Institut remember you; you taught parents and later their children. Even many years after your retirement, you continued to teach people German and were a very popular and valued teacher in the youth courses. What makes a good German teacher?
A good teacher has to become a friend with the students from day one, make his/her goal clear to them, that they should join in if they want to learn the language well, and also explain to them how interesting and important the German language is for their future. From the beginning, he/she should praise the students after each answer with "bravo, good, excellent, very good". This encourages them a lot! My motto was "no words no language". I created a list, therefore, of about 300 important phrases and expressions of daily life (they are in my book "STRAHL") such as "Welcome, please take a seat", and gave them to the students with the request to memorise 5-10 phrases each time, and I tested them at the beginning of every lesson. They enjoyed this enormously, and it ran parallel to the grammar exercises and texts in the textbook.
In the 1980s, you organised trips to Germany for the German students. How did these trips go? Do you have any particularly fond memories?
The trips to Germany with the German students were very interesting. The programme was very rich. Among other things, we visited museums, castles and palaces and got to know the daily life of the Germans, e.g. using the tram, the underground, trains, and the students had the opportunity to practise their German while shopping. I stood by without speaking, listened and was very happy to see how they were able to communicate. A particularly nice memory was once when my twenty pupils were asked for their tickets in the underground and they told the ticket inspector, "Our teacher has the tickets. That's the fat gentleman at the back". And after I showed him the group ticket, he called out loudly to his colleagues in the metro "Hello... group of students from Cyprus, everything is all right....." And all the passengers looked around curiously to see the students from Cyprus! It was very negative that we didn't have mobile phones at that time and I had to give strict instructions about the departure time and meeting point of the group.
I don't know of anyone in Cyprus whose experience with German lessons goes back further than yours. What did German lessons look like forty years ago?
Forty or fifty years ago, there was very little demand for German in Cyprus. Most of the classes were held in the evening schools. Sometimes I would register some relatives of mine in order to form a German class. Most of the students were business people who worked with German companies and studied very hard. The emphasis was on hotel, restaurant, travel, taxis, etc. and all this from my own notes and dialogues. That was all they needed to know when they went to Germany. There were hardly any people interested in studying in Germany. At that time there was no air conditioning in the classes and in winter I always took my small fan heater to class so that the students wouldn't stay away!
The Goethe-Institut in Cyprus has existed for 60 years. Which moments have stuck in your memory and which do you remember particularly fondly?
I have been at the Goethe-Institut for the last fifty years. In all those years I was lucky to always have well-selected, good, understanding and nice colleagues. I always think of them fondly. I also think fondly of the annual, very well-organised teacher seminars held by various experts in the German language. Many colleagues from all over Cyprus took part and we had the opportunity to learn about many educational topics and form good friendships. Our closing ceremony was also very nice and interesting, where almost all students and teachers took part in the different games before we ended up with sausages and drinks. I also have fond memories of the Christmas parties at the Goethe-Institut, where I played Father Christmas for years and handed out sweets and presents to the children. In recent years, I have experienced great love and appreciation from my colleagues and also from my students. It's a pity that due to the pandemic and old age, everything suddenly came to an end.
What do you wish the Goethe-Institut for the future?
The Goethe-Institut, with its good directors and capable staff, is really doing a very good job for both groups of the Cypriot population. I sincerely hope that it will continue to exist for many more years so that it can pass on the German language and culture to all the people of Cyprus.