Heena Jain has been named India’s German Teacher of the Year 2017. She used DW Akademie's online courses to learn German. Angela Merkel personally congratulated Jain on her achievement.
"It was the best moment of my life. Meeting and getting to know the most powerful woman in the world in person was a unique opportunity for me. She spoke to us and told us a lot about her meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
Heena Jain won the Goethe-Institut's "Startup with German" competition and is India's Best German Teacher 2017. Her prize was a four-week language course in Berlin, together with three other teachers and 31 students. The most exciting part of the trip took them to the German Chancellery in the summer of 2017 where Angela Merkel personally congratulated the guests from India.
Heena Jain owes her success to DW Akademie's online language courses. She learned the basics of the German language in conventional language courses, but she prepared for most of her language tests on her own using DW online offerings like "Top-Thema mit Vokabeln", "Alltagsdeutsch", "Sprachbar" or "Video-Thema". In order to become a German teacher, she needed the Goethe-Institut's C1 certificate, which provides proof of an advanced level of German. She passed this test with the help of language exercises provided by DW Akademie.
She passed key German exams only with the help of DW Akademie
"I actually had no connection to Germany. My mother wanted me to do something special in life and to learn a new foreign language," recalls Jain, whose cousin then encouraged her to learn German after school. Especially as Indians usually choose French as a second foreign language after English. He had learned German and got a good job at an IT consulting firm.
Heena, 26, comes from Ferozepur, Punjab, a small town on the border with Pakistan. For the past 16 years she has lived with her family in Patiala, a town about two hours from Chandigarh in northern India. When she started learning German after graduating from high school, the commute to Chandigarh eventually became exhausting. Then, she found out about the German language courses offered by DW Akademie at her uncle’s home in Delhi, where she watched Deutsche Welle TV for the first time. "I checked the homepage right after a show and discovered the language courses. I started reading texts and articles and listening to stories,” says Jain. By reading the texts she was able to quickly improve her listening comprehension and pronunciation and expand her vocabulary. "I like that I get to learn everything about German culture, German food, geography, habits of Germans, German cars and anything else that has to do with Germany and Europe."
"My knowledge of German has given me freedom and respect"
Now she teaches 11- to 14-year-olds German at a Kendriya Vidyalaya school, which is part of a centralized system of state learning institutions with over 1,100 schools in India and other countries. She never really wanted to be a teacher. "To me, teaching was a very boring job. I actually wanted to work at a company, but during my bachelor's program I was offered the opportunity to start teaching German at a state school. The salary was very attractive for a 19-year-old woman, and my parents also wanted me to become a teacher," she recalls. She now feels a strong connection to the students and even uses DW Akademie's exercises for her lessons. Since there are often problems with the internet connection at school or worksheets are not available, the students do the exercises as homework at home. "Of course you can't replace teachers, but unfortunately you can't take them everywhere," says Jain.
Heena Jain has never regretted her decision to learn German. The language has completely changed her life and has given her many new freedoms and respect. "German has given me everything. Most women in India marry young and are worse off afterwards. You're not that independent. Marriage isn't so important to me. I love my freedom and I want to do something for society. Almost everyone in India can understand English and speak it a bit, but I can't say that English would have helped me so much. German is now the music of my life!"
Typically German? Poets and philosophers, but also Christmas markets, bread and punctuality
She has been in Germany three times; twice on a scholarship from the Goethe-Institut and once to work as an interpreter for a week in Heidenheim. She has learned a lot about Germany over the years. "I had no idea that Germany plays such an important role in the world," she says. What is typically German to her? "German philosophers, German poets, German composers, German inventors and German scientists are part of German culture. But also garden gnomes, Oktoberfest, Christmas markets, musical theater, opera houses, Cologne Carnival, German cars, soccer, sports clubs, beer, potato salad, sausages, pretzels, more than 1,000 kinds of bread, mulled wine, Bavarian cuisine, Berlin cuisine, Black Forest cake, German punctuality, neatness and hospitality."