Ms. Gustavsen, tell us about your background: Where, when, and why did you learn German?
I started learning German in middle school when my school offered an exploratory program. I quickly fell in love with German and continued to study it through high school and college.
Where, when, and why did you decide to become a German teacher?
I decided to become a German teacher during high school, when I had a wonderful teacher who really introduced how language could be both fun and beneficial. It made me want to show that to other future students.
What is the most challenging part in teaching German? What is the most rewarding?
I find idioms to be the most challenging part in teaching German, but it is fun when students really think about what things mean, and they realize that literal translations do not work in German and vise versa. The tricky part is that there are so many idioms and expressions that you don’t know are different until someone tells you or until you have a chance to look it up.
The most rewarding is when students approach me and tell me about how they used the language outside of class. This can include them teaching their friends or family something, or when they tell me that they heard someone in town or at an event speaking German and that they approached that person and tried to carry on a conversation with them. I love seeing how proud they feel about those accomplishments.
Is there anything like a “special profile” for students who learn German?
It really varies. I have students who are satisfying college language requirements, who have German heritage, who have heard some German music, who want to work in fields where the German language will be beneficial, and students who have gotten the opportunity to travel abroad and fell in love with the culture. It’s wonderful to have such a variety, and it’s great when students mention in class that they now want to keep studying the language for new reasons on top of why they were already studying it.
Where did/do you get support, guidance as a yet relatively inexperienced German teacher?
As a newer teacher I get support from language department colleagues, mentors from internships, former professors and teachers, and a lot of online resources. It’s important to get resources from all available avenues, and to realize that it is not a sign of any kind of lack of abilities as a teacher to seek resources and guidance. As educators we will continually build on our arsenal of strategies and to further our own educations.
In your opinion: What are the prospects for German as a foreign language in the US?
German as a foreign language in the US has become more prevalent. Personally, I am lucky to teach German in a city where there are a lot of German companies, universities that offer German as a foreign language, and that has partner universities and high schools in Germany. With the local options for continued use of the language, and the importance of Germany in business and politics on the world stage, I have positive feelings for the development of German as a foreign language being taught in the United States.
The interview was conducted by Christoph Veldhues and Olga Liamkina.