Alina Nosenko: you need to fall in love with German

For the year of the German language the German Embassy in Ukraine questions successful people on the ways they managed to learn German. Alina Nosenko, the Director of Klitschko Foundation, shared her advices and story.

I no longer study German, but simply use the acquired knowledge, read books and watch films in German. The story of how I came to studying this language and how I actually learned it – quite long.

It all started with my mother. She studied in St. Petersburg, which sister city is Hamburg. She was told that two women would share the room in a dormitory with her. As because they studied Russian, mom immediately was on good terms with both of them. Very soon our family became very close to the girls. We are still communicating a lot, which is why I often go to Luneburg.

When I was between the ages of 10 and 12, my mother thought that it was the time for someone in our family to study German. Till then I had already learned English well enough because I was studying at an English-language school. And I did not want to start new foreign language. My parents, however, had different opinions. My father always said that this language is spoken in five European countries and the one, who speaks this language, will always have an advantage.

At first, my vocabulary was limited to the phrases "yes", "no", "hello", "my name is Alina" and "I’m 13 years old". Once my family and I visited our German friends. Their two-years-old son wanted to play with me and told me: "I will play the hungry dinosaur and I will bite you to eat a bit." I just said “yes”.  After a few seconds, he already tasted my leg with his teeth. It was terribly painful and I decided that I would not return to Germany until I could normally communicate in German. I had one more funny situation. I wanted to take a metaphor from "Cat in Boots". I was going to say about the cat in the bag, but instead said "cat in the sleeping bag". It was very funny for the family. It actually much easier and faster to learn the language with children. When I lived in the German family I expanded my vocabulary and overcame the fear of speaking in German.

In the 7th grade, I began to study German with a tutor, until the 8th grade parents decided that from next year I would go to an in-depth German language school. It was a surprise to me. Before entering the Lyceum there was a preparatory school on Fridays and Saturdays, where we studied foreign literature and German language. The first hours of classes were very difficult for me. I could not understand why the German "dog" - he, and not she? Why do they need articles?

Grade 9 was hard for me and I cried a lot. It was eight of us in class and everyone else was studying German as the first foreign language. Accordingly, their marks were always better then mine. I wanted to go back to the English class. One instructor told me that I could be more successful if I only invested more time in studying the German language. And all this despite the fact that I was already working very hard. The second semester we had 5 German subjects in school: German, German grammar, German literature, German history and German studies. I began to listen to German music, mostly groups such as Rammstein or Tic Tac Toe. From their songs, I learned a lot of new words that we would not have just learned in the classroom. That time seemed the worst for me. But now I am very thankful to my parents. In the end of the 9th grade I finally thought in German. I began to win Olympiads on city and region levels. At the national Olympiad I lacked one point to win. For the competition at the Academy of Sciences my work was on neologisms in German. It gained the third place within all works in Ukraine.

I deepened my knowledge of German significantly at the University of Berlin. To study there, I received a scholarship from Erasmus Mundus from the European Commission. During the year I studied politics and communication at the University of Humboldt. This topic was the closest to the international information, my specialty at the Institute of International Relations of the T. Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. It was then that I actually developed the sense of language. There was no other way out but to speak German. At first, I lived by myself, it was quite difficult to find friends in Berlin. At university students only came to lectures or seminars. I chose the strategy. To make friends, a friend advised to directly tell people how they can help me. I drew up a few sentences to address to my colleagues at the university. I said: "Hi, my name is Alina. I am from Ukraine and I want to improve my German. For this purpose, I would like to talk with you, because for you German is native. " This was unexpected for most people, but it was fun and it worked.

Then I decided to rent the apartment together with other people to communicate more. At first, my attempts were not very successful, but with the help of a good friend, I developed a plan for how to make a good impression and move in a shared apartment. It was one flat on the Alexanderplatz street I liked. We invented a national holiday, so we had an excuse to always came with a bouquet of flowers. Often it caught the owners suddenly, they said that they did not even have a vase for such an occasion, to which I replied that if they accepted my candidacy, then I would buy a vase. These were especially funny moments. Two days later I received confirmation and eventually moved to live to my new comrades.

After that, I further improved my German during the internship in Bundestag. It definitely has already developed a high level of German. I worked at the Departments of Sports and Defense. It was very difficult with all political terms and I had to learn a lot of new words to designate various tanks and other weapons in order to understand and translate them.

I got my job thanks to the knowledge of German. In Bundestag, my deputy, Karin Strenz, invited me to take part in a project led by Wladimir Klitschko. The first question of Vitali and Wladimir was: "Where did you learn German?" German is my ace in my sleeve.

I, in fact, do not know anyone who speaks German well and does not have a good job. Because of this, I always say that when a person has already studied German, then she has many opportunities to find work, regardless of the direction of study at the university.

There are a lot of places to begin learning the language. One teacher once told me that German is similar to math: there are always rules and if you know them, then everything is extremely simple. Of course, there are exceptions that need merely to be learned by heart, but the rest is really math. When I already had the C1 in German, I improved my knowledge in Goethe Institute. Many people do not consider German to be attractive. Instead, I always say that reading Goethe in the original is something special. German is the language you need to fall in love with.