Learning a new language can open up a wealth of opportunities in the arts, from making global creative connections to gaining a deeper understanding of an exhibition. The Goethe-Institut London are leading the way, promoting the study of German abroad and encouraging international cultural exchange.
The institute speak to Aesthetica about their new courses – taking place both online and in-person – whilst exploring their ongoing engagement with visual culture in the UK.
A: The past few months have seen many people taking new creative opportunities, such as learning a new language. Which types of courses does Goethe-Institut offer?
GI: Our German course offer for the autumn semester 2020 tries to accommodate the interest of all our learners. We offer courses that make complete use of the online format. You can make use of our excellent learning platform in the Online Group Courses or learn with a qualified teacher via the online classroom in the Online Standard Courses. If you prefer face-to-face lessons at the Goethe-Institut, we offer our Standard Courses and Blended Learning Courses – an exciting mix of both face-to-face lessons and working on our learning platform. All face-to-face lessons will adhere to social distancing guidelines and are starting from 14 September 2020.
A: The way we consume arts and culture has changed dramatically due to the pandemic, with a lot of it now happening online. How have Goethe-Institut adapted their courses and wider programming?
GI: We’ve offered German language courses online before as well, but with the Covid-19 pandemic, the interest in our online group courses for instance has increased immensely. Learning a new language properly can be such a rewarding experience, no matter what the circumstances are.
As for the cultural programmes, we postponed many of our planned events to a later date and shifted several events into the digital realm. Since our re-opening on 1 September 2020, we are offering not only courses, but also our cultural events and programmes on-site again. We are also continuing some offers online. We have been working relentlessly to create a safe space with social distancing and hygiene measures in place, while still allowing customers to interact and meet people during our cultural programmes, our language courses or in the library.
It’s wonderful to see that people are interested in joining us at the institute again. It is the start of a new semester and a new programming season for us – we really hope to be able to offer our customers the best experience while closely monitoring the ongoing situation and public guidelines.
A: What are the advantages of learning digitally?
GI: Learning German digitally offers you the flexibility to study anywhere and anytime. As long as you are connected to the internet, you can study during your lunch break or during your weekend trip.
A: Your digital film library features a wealth of German movies, streaming for free. What are some of the highlights, and why should we encourage more people to engage with international films?
GI: Not only films, but also e-books, e-newspapers and audiobooks are available in our eLibrary – altogether 23,000 different types of media are available for free. Watching international films gives you a real insight into another country and is a great way to absorb new vocabulary – very often the kind you would rather not learn from a textbook.
If you are already interested in the literature from German speaking countries you might enjoy Agnes, directed by Johannes Schmid and based on a novel by Peter Stamm. If you would rather feel the paper, our library in South Kensington also offers a great selection of German literature in translation to get you started. If you prefer a more exclusive film screening at our institute, we also recommend our popular Goethe-Kino screenings. The monthly series features contemporary German cinema, outstanding TV productions and film classics, shown with English subtitles unless otherwise specified. The first screening we offer since our lockdown is Lucia Chiarla’s The Chairs Game on 29 September 2020.
A: What are some other benefits of learning German language?
GI: German is the most commonly spoken mother tongue in Europe – over 100 million people speak it as their first language. So learning German significantly enhances your educational and career opportunities. But these are only some of the benefits – emphasised by our customers in their feedback. You can learn German just for fun or maybe because your partner, a good friend or family member has a German background. Learning a new language opens the door to a whole new culture. You will be able to watch German films, listen to German music, podcasts or order your food in German, whenever you are in German speaking environment. These are such wonderful experiences you’d never get if you didn’t speak the language.
A: Let’s speak more about Goethe-Institut and the arts – what sorts of projects have you been involved in, and how do the language courses fit into this?
GI: The Goethe-Institut prides itself in offering language courses which incorporate current cultural affairs and focus on cultural aspects relating to German speaking countries. Additionally, learners of German can partake in the cultural programmes which the institut offers. This inclusive approach allows learners of the language to gain cultural insights and thereby broaden their cultural horizon.
A: You run a podcast series titled Talking Culture. Who are some of the key guests you’ve spoken with, and what types of topics are covered?
GI: At the moment, we are in the midst of producing two new episodes which will be released in the next few weeks: one discussing Europe from the perspective of young German and UK artists and intellectuals, and the other one on blockchain in the arts with some very exciting interview partners around the globe. Our previous guests include the Whitechapel Gallery’s director Iwona Blazwick who spoke about sustainability in the art and cultural world. Sustainability is a pressing issue in the art world – shipping works of art, frequent international travel or single-use exhibition materials are only a few reasons for that. Iwona Blazwick talked about how female leaders are using their voice to drive a sustainable future both within and outside the sector.
We have also welcomed author and broadcaster John Kampfner who argued that “the Germans do it better” – his talk is based on his same-titled book. Lessons from a Grown Up Country was also recently published and has already become a bestseller. Another podcast guest was Kris Nelson, CEO at the London International Festival of Theatre, who spoke about theatres in times of Covid-19 and rising nationalism. You’ll be able to find more details here.
Images courtesy Goethe-Institut.