Ellie Healy: Week 3

Ellie’s German destiny hits a snag…


Berlin was my first choice for my year abroad this September, but I think I may have cocked it up, as per.

I didn’t get it.  Boohoo. I’m going to be a teaching assistant for the British Council, working in a German high school, but now I don’t have a clue where I’m going…

About seven or eight months ago, interviews were taking place for the assistantship. I spent the days leading up to mine freaking out, trying to remember all the witty things I wanted to say in an attempt to remain positive.

I walked into the interview room and there he was… my all-time least favourite lecturer, the creepiest, most boring guy in the German department, who, for now, we shall call M.

I sat down, teeth grinding, leg shaking. He asked me a load of banal questions, such as, what skills do you think you have that would make you a good classroom assistant? And, are you gonna touch up the kids? (not really). I answered them all, I didn’t stop talking really, I had a lot to say – I wanted to prove I was worthy.

Dressed like a German from birth...

Dressed like a German from birth…

Then something magnificent happened. He asked me what I would do if there were children at the back of my class who wouldn’t be quiet. In complete seriousness, I told him that I’d tell them to “shut up”…

At first, I thought it might be a cough, or a burp, or vomit… BUT HE LET OUT A BELLOWING LAUGH. HE LIKED ME!! The weirdest member of staff at Nottingham uni and I had tickled him. Well, praise Jesus, that has just made my year.

For the rest of the interview I looked like the little German cat that got the cream; I was smug as anything. I felt this new burst of confidence and I nattered to M like we were old buddies.

Then came the shattering question that deflated my big bubble, and for once, I wasn’t expecting it. Slyly, towards the end of our friendly confab, like a sneaky German fox, he asked me, “How would you describe your accent exactly?”

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. How could this have happened??! Did I let myself go too much?! I was speaking alright wasn’t I?! I’m sure I was pronouncing my T’s and H’s.

Wiping the sweat from my brow, (and the fat grin off my mug) I tried to muster some sort of explanation about being from South London so I don’t exactly speak the Queen’s, etc.

But no. That was it. His mind was made up.

For the next couple of minutes I received a lecture on how it’s essential that I speak in Received Pronunciation and try to keep any kind of accent at bay or else I’ll influence the children’s English. God forbid they turn out speaking like me. God forbid.

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I walked out of there quick as a shot, thinking it had gone well considering the positive vibes I was getting from this guy about five minutes before and the three or four feats of laughter that exposed the soul that’s apparently been hiding under his shocking knitted jumpers this whole time.

This week I found out I didn’t get the place I wanted. I was pretty gutted – I didn’t cry or jump off a building or anything, but it was a bit annoying.

I couldn’t help but think that if I’d put my Pride and Prejudice accent on and made a bit more of an effort to come across as educated and sweet that I might have stood a better chance.

Now I just keep having visions of M drawing a big cross over my application form with a big red marker pen and writing ‘DEFINITELY NOT – DIRTY, FILTHY COCKNEY’.

Anyway, to my fellow linguists/American studies students/crazy-lovers-of-years-in-foreign-countries people – no, you’re not the only ones shitting yourselves whenever you imagine yourself getting off that plane in September.

I’m sure it’ll work out alright in the end, wherever I end up. And who knows, I might just turn up to work with a tweed cap on, fag hanging out my mouth,  and force-feed my students jellied eels whilst shouting “EAT AP YOU BLUDDY KRAUTS!!”