From Siberia to Heinrich Heine's House with Daria

The following is an interview with Daria, a member of our C1 group. If you would like to see why Daria enjoys our meetups, try one today with a free trial.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I was born in Russian Siberia near the lake Baikal and the border with Mongolia. After finishing school when I was 16, I moved to a bigger city where I studied Public Relations. 


This is when I started learning German - on my own initiative, as it was not part of the curriculum. I was inspired by the poetry of Heinrich Heine and dreamed of one day visiting his hometown of Düsseldorf.


After graduation, I moved to St. Petersburg, where I completed my master's degree and worked in the music industry as a PR-Manager.


I was also lucky enough to study abroad. For a semester in 2013 I studied in Dortmund. It was my first trip to Germany and Europe. And for 3 months! It was such an awesome experience! From that time I travelled in Europe a lot and made many friends.


Then years later, in 2018, I moved to Dortmund from Russia for the “International Volunteering Service” or the “Erasmus+” program, as it is otherwise known. 


Since 2018 I have lived and worked here, in Mönchengladbach, which is not far from Düsseldorf! So in fact, my dream came true! And I found the house of Heinrich Heine of course! 

I am a freelancer now. I work mostly with international youth non-commercial organisations, which are based in Hagen, North-Rhine Westphalia. I am a Content Manager and Media Designer. I’m responsible for social media and content for the website of the organisaiton

I am also developing as a trainer, project manager and workshop leader for creating promotional campaigns and content for social media. I produce flyers, posters for outdoor and print advertising as well as design layouts for social media. 


From time to time I still take part in international Erasmus+ training courses, which allows me to travel and meet a lot of cool, interesting people! 


The rest of the time I work from home. Many of my colleagues from different countries speak English on our Zoom calls, so I haven’t gotten enough practice for my German. That’s why I’m here, in cosy Deutsch Gym!


Did you move to German to improve your German speaking skills?

I always was interested in Germany, so I searched for the most effective ways to move and live here. Of course for that I had to have convincing language skills. I started to learn German when I was in Russia in preparation to move here. 


Has it been difficult to integrate?

My integration went smoothly and pleasantly, as I had friends around me who helped me. Moreover, I had already lived here during an exchange semester, so the place and its rules and culture were already familiar to me. 


Improving my language skills has helped me integrate, for sure. 


I want to work with people in „real life“ and not only online and remotely. I’m a Public Relations specialist in a musical and concert industry, and working in this field has been a goal of mine for some time. Of course I need to speak German fluently!


When you don’t speak often and have no practice in everyday life, integration becomes harder- You are not able to react fast in some situations. For example, on radio or tv-news. Everybody is already on a topic, but you may miss a comment, or a point, and you will lose track of the conversation. You won’t have time to find a word in a dictionary. You might have to ask again what this or that phrase means, and that disrupts the flow of the conversation. 


I work through different communication formats, so my German needs to be of a very high level. I need to be able to react quickly in many situations. 

That is why it is so important to live and breathe and feel the language, and to use it in your active everyday life. 


What has been the hardest thing for you in learning German?

The hardest thing for me in learning German was and is grammar, for sure: articles, prepositions, prefixes. These are all quite difficult to remember. It stops you in your tracks while you're talking. You start concentrating on these details and drop out of the conversation. In fact, though, many Germans themselves make these mistakes. The important thing is to understand each other and express yourself clearly. You need a vocabulary for that. 


How has Deutsch Gym helped you with your German? 

Deutsch Gym helps me a lot. It helps my German stay in my active memory. Mental blocks that I sometimes have disappear after chatting with other people in the meetup groups. In Deutsch Gym I'm not afraid to make mistakes. 


How often do you attend Deutsch Gym meetups?

Once a week on Friday at 1 pm so far. I cannot join the club in the evening on weekdays, because I spend time with my family. It would be great to have meetings in the afternoons.


What other learning methods have you tried? 

I tried everything: Intensive courses, evening classes, and courses with a teacher face-to-face. 

For me, private lessons, meetings (even as informal learning methods) and conversations in real life work well. You’re just hanging out all together and speaking about everything. 


Watching movies and tv-shows, listening to music and reading the lyrics is also pretty useful. I read the news as well, for example in the morning on the Instagram page of Tagesschau.


If you were to learn German again, from the start, what is the one thing that you would do differently? 

Instead of learning from old textbooks, where there were no everyday phrases, I would have attended more language clubs. When I first came to Germany at my B2 level I did not know the words "hallo" and "Tschüss". I did not even know how to order food competently!

In the textbooks, everything was academic and not so applicable to everyday life. They left me pretty unprepared. I really needed to learn real life communication, like how to ask for things in a pharmacy, speak with a doctor, book an appointment with the work office, or how to buy a train ticket (there are so many options in the ticket machines!).


Other language learners will be reading this blog. What tips for them do you have in learning languages? 

Don't be afraid to make mistakes - native speakers make mistakes too. Read and expand your vocabulary, surround yourself with the language as much as possible: through music, radio, news, books. 


Translate articles on your favourite topics. For example, before I moved to Germany, I translated articles about my favourite football team that were published in German media. I translated them into Russian and adapted them for our social networking community. 


You also can write the lyrics of your favourite songs by ear and then compare them with the original and parse the phrases. Talk to children if possible. They will force you to explain things they don't understand and will not finish phrases for you as many adults often do.


Do you have any book/podcast recommendations that have helped you with your language learning?

My recommendations that have helped people with their language learning: Social media accounts of Deutsche Welle, Tagesschau, and Deutsch Online. I like to listen to 1Live Radio and watch Stand Ups. And Deutsch Gym for sure! 

Now for a general, non-language related question! What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you? 

I am surrounded by many good people, and everyone has done something good for me: someone ordered me a taxi when I got lost in a city at nighttime, fulfilled my dream to visit the Neuschwanstein castle for my birthday, collected money to buy me a ticket to Germany, made a Verpflichtungserklärung letter of recommendation for me so I can get a visa, recommended me to clients, helped with my studies and moving to another flat, comforted and reassured me with words and hugs... believed and still believing in me! There is no gradation here to determine the kindest thing.

Thanks Daria!

Practice your spoken German in our online German speaking classes (5-day free trial).

The classes are fun and friendly - you'll meet new people and also talk to native speakers. We have classes every single day and new and interesting conversation themes for each session. Give them a go!

I'm the founder of Deutsch Gym. In the past I've worked in startups as a marketer and frontend developer and surfed a few waves along the way. I moved to Berlin from Ireland a few years ago and learned German - prompting the idea for Deutsch Gym.
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