Nancy Kou learns German while teaching Chinese
Though the German language wasn’t exactly something Nancy Kou had thought about studying, it nonetheless became something she fell in love with. After spending five years living and working in Germany, she has since returned to Beijing and now teaches Chinese to students at the German School of Beijing. tbjkids sat down with her to discuss the differences between the two countries, the hardest thing about living abroad and her fondness for potatoes.
How did you end up studying German?
It had a lot to do with my studies in China. I had studied English in Beijing, but we also had to study an additional language, and since there were too many people choosing French or Japanese, I decided to study German.
When did you first go to Germany?
I went by myself after my studies in Beijing, and I lived in Mainz for almost five years. I had never been to Germany before that.
What is different about Germany and China?
The education systems are very different, and besides studying, I also worked when I was in Germany. In China I only studied, but in Germany I was doing a combination of working, studying and teaching. I was hired at a school to teach Chinese to Chinese kids that were living in Germany.
When did you come back to China?
At the end of 2003, right before Christmas. But I had visited my family during those five years that I lived in Germany.
Was it very hard for you to stay so far away from your family?
Sure. I didn’t see them very often. We could only e-mail or talk to each other over the phone. That was hard.
What do you like the most about being a teacher?
I always wanted to become a teacher. It was my dream job when I was really young. What I like the most is that you get so much in return from the children. I teach them Chinese and they help me to improve my German.
Is it difficult to teach at an international school, where you have pupils leaving and new ones arriving all the time?
Sometimes, because some of the students already speak some Chinese, while there are others who are just starting. But, as a qualified teacher, I have to handle this. The beginners will get extra exercises to do, and I also arrange for the more experienced pupils to tutor them.
Is it hard for you to have to deal with your students leaving the school to go back to Germany?
Sure it is. But as a teacher you have to deal with it. It is my first year at this school so I haven’t encountered that situation yet, but I know it well from my experiences back in Germany.
What other methods besides textbooks do you use to teach the language?
We sing songs and sometimes watch movies that relate to the current lesson we are working on. Some of the older students often have class until late in the afternoon, so they are really tired and it is hard for them to concentrate. That’s when I will try using different methods to refocus them. But since they don’t have to study Chinese and it is their own decision to do so, they are really self-motivated.
What do you like the most about the German language?
I like that the German grammar structure has regular rules. In Chinese, it is not so fixed, which makes it very difficult to teach sometimes.
What do you like the most about being back in China?
That I am with my family again. I am an only child, so it was hard for my parents when I was away, as it also was for me. It is good to be with my parents again. But I can’t compare my life here with my life in Germany. It is so different when you’re a student and when you start working.
What do you miss the most about Germany?
The five years I spent there were really different from the life I have now. Now I am working full-time and I have my family. I miss my friends in Germany a lot, and speaking German all the time.
Did the German culture become a part of you?
Yes, definitely! I still love to eat potatoes.