ELTABBer of the Month: Sandra Roggenkamp

Contact: sandra.milena@posteo.org


  • I’ve noticed over the years that we have very few “native German” English teachers in ELTABB. How can we reach out to these teachers and how would you “sell” ELTABB to them?

I think ELTABB is an organisation that mostly appeals to freelance teachers from other countries – the red tape workshops, the exchange with colleagues, the peer support…. Most Germans who teach English are likely to hold teaching jobs at schools and universities with better pay, job security, colleagues, full insurance and pension plans. They don’t need ELTABB as much as freelancers from abroad who are just starting out would, and many have families and appreciate their free time. They would have to have a very good reason for giving away their Saturdays.

What could work is offering events that help them solve some of their problems in the classroom, such as how to incorporate the latest technology in their lessons or how to teach business English to high school students. 

There is still the idea of teaching as a very traditional profession demanding little flexibility, but times are changing rapidly and teaching methods need to adapt to the requirements of our 21st-century society.

  • You’re a regular attendee of ELTABB workshops. Can you name a recent favorite and discuss what you got out of it?

I had tons of fun at Andreas Grundtvig’s workshop “A family of Englishes”. It was multimedia, very interactive and Andreas showed us that there are grammatical and lexical structures of English in languages where you would least expect them, such as Ukrainian. It was interesting to see how languages work – incorporating elements of other languages, adapting them and making them their own. The speaker’s corner activity was great, too – participants were encouraged to talk about a random topic off the cuff for two minutes while standing on a beer crate. The others were supposed to throw in comments at will (without being nasty, of course). The point was to simulate a more natural, real-life discussion than what you usually get in a lesson, and to practice defending your point of view in front of an audience without much preparation. A non-native speaker of English could easily find themselves in such a situation abroad, so it is a great way to practice speaking (although it might be challenging for shy people).

  • What intrigues you most about learning multiple languages? Do you see any drawbacks to being a polyglot?

To me, being a polyglot makes it easier to relate to and build a level of trust with people from different countries. Also, learning a new language is a bit like discovering the world from a new perspective – excitingly different and strangely familiar at the same time. I think polyglots are more open-minded, curious and tolerant people on the whole. The drawback that I see is that the more languages I learn, the more I am prone to interlingual interference, especially with languages that are very similar (such as Italian and Spanish). 
And, of course, it increases your bucket list of places to visit!

  • As the ELTABB Journal Editor, what articles have generated the most interest, and what is your personal favourite journal article?

That’s interesting: the article with the most views so far is the one about teaching with TED talks, but the one that gets the most traffic from the search engines is Liz’ article on “5 things to know about teaching English in Berlin,” although it is one of the shortest. It is solid advice and it is what people are looking for.

Personally, I think that Richard’s article on teaching English for edu-charity in Manila is one of the most intriguing ones because it describes an adventure that goes far beyond teaching, though teaching is at the core of it. 

  • Who do you see as the audience for the ELTABB Journal and what topics would you like to see upcoming issues?

The nice thing about the ELTABB journal is that it is for anyone who is interested in teaching English and looking for inspiring and helpful material. It is meant for a broad audience, and so far, we have gotten comments from teachers from different parts of the world, such as Korea and Brazil. That’s one of the advantages of the digital age.

In the future, I would like to see more articles that focus on the social impact teaching can have and to see in what way teaching can make a contribution to the world in a broader sense. Moreover, I would like to have more articles about 21st-century education because I think that’s where the future lies – not stuffing your head with data and rules, but seeing learning as a way to enhance creativity, collaboration and transferable skills.

  • What’s your favorite S-Bahn accessible local hike?

The southeast of Berlin is very pretty. If you go to Rahnsdorf on the S3 and walk towards Wilhelmshagen, you can see New Venice with its little canals and villas (some call it Rahniwood because it is as fancy as it gets around here). From there, you can walk on through the forest all the way to the Woltersdorfer Schleuse (floodgate). There is a belvedere with a great view there, as well as some gemütlich beer gardens and a historical train taking you back to the S-Bahn. Beautiful on a summer Sunday!

  • Question from Tia: I would like to ask what Sandra sees as the biggest challenge of teaching in Berlin, and what solution or change she would like to see (in an ideal world). 

Well, one of the challenges of being a freelancer in Berlin (and in fact, Germany) is the bewildering amount of paperwork you have to deal with. That is something which could definitely be simplified, especially for non-native speakers of German. My suggestion is to ask a German freelancer to help see you through that maze. Luckily, there are plenty of meetups for that purpose. Another thing is having to get your own insurance, which is more expensive for freelancers than for employees – although it does not have to be. I know someone who works as a voice actor for Deutsche Welle, and he is a freelancer, but Deutsche Welle pays for his insurance. So it is possible and should be more common. Last but not least, to put an end to time-consuming commuting, schools should book teachers for more than one or two units at a time. Some people work for two or three full days per week for the same company, and that makes much more sense than having to travel all over the place.

Edited by Stephanie Anderson