German expat MARGARITA LIEBRECHT has been a Head Teacher at the Hong Kong Institute of Languages since January 2021. We find out more about her role, the school’s language programmes and details of a special offer for Expat Living readers!
What language do you specialise in at the institute, and what ages do you mostly teach?
Since our school’s language programmes are exclusively taught by native teachers, I specialise in German. I’m a passionate multilinguist – I learnt French at school and studied English and Spanish language and literature at my university in Germany.
At the institute, I teach a variety of age groups, starting with kindergarten age through to teens and adults. It’s challenging but very interesting at the same time as I can apply the different teaching approaches I learnt during my masters of education and tailor them to the individual student or group class.
Why is learning a second or third language important?
Apart from the obvious advantage you get in professional environments where cross-cultural communication is key, or benefits like being able to converse with the target language’s speaking community, learning a language supports our brain’s ability for abstraction and pattern recognition. Learning a new language also supports creative thinking.
Is it easy or hard to engage students in language learning? Do you use any particular strategies?
It can be both, but as always the answer is more complex. I’m a strong advocate of the immersive language learning approach. Even though we speak of “tasks” in the education field, I prefer to use the terms “language experience” and “language performance”, which are more accurate if you consider when a language is used. An immersive experience represents the foundation of successful learning. Enriched with a focus on communication, learning a language then comes naturally, as a “side effect” of this immersive experience. We are boosting the confidence of students and strengthening their ability to communicate in a new foreign language as a result.
What’s a fun or memorable moment you’ve had as a teacher at the institute?
I remember one situation in particular when I saw how my German class learned the lyrics of a German song as a “side effect” of a learning activity. That specific song was played in the background during one of our immersive vocabulary acquisition activities. One day, while we were doing a different kind of activity but with the same background music, some students just started singing the German lyrics. According to scientific theory, employing music and singing in the target language, especially at an early age, helps language learners to develop accurate pronunciation skills and actually become native-like.
Tell us one interesting word in the language you teach.
German is famous for its long compounds; the longest noun is “Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz” – this is a law for the delegation of monitoring beef labelling!
What can your students look forward to when they get the chance to visit Germany?
Communicating with ease with the locals. They’ll be able to strike up a conversation confidently about cultural interests, cuisine, directions and more; and they’ll be able to adapt to the local environment much quicker than they think.
When you’re not working in HK, what do you like to do?
Outdoor activities like hiking, trail-running or roller skating, plus reading, singing and spending quality time with friends.
About Hong Kong Institute of Languages
The institute has been teaching languages to children, teens, adults, corporations and schools for over 35 years. It currently offers tuition in seven languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese; flexible learning modes of teaching include face-to-face private or small group classes, online or home-based courses.
Keen to get started? To support EL readers on their linguistic journey, the institute is offering 15 percent off the tuition fee (valid until 30 September).
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.