Matt Hinkleman – der amerikanische Sprachassistent

Interviewer: Tim

Thank you for coming and answering the questions for our school magazine.
I’m really excited to do that.

First, where are you from?
I’m from Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is of course in the US.

Is it more like in the country or in the city?
Fort Wayne is the second biggest city in Indiana only behind the state’s capital, Indianapolis. Fort Wayne is a decently sized city, it’s actually around the same size as Mainz here, in terms of population. But it’s kind of funny, because my mom said, that the family lives about an hour away from Fort Wayne and at this point it’s really farmland, really countryside. So once you travel a little bit outside of Fort Wayne and anywhere else in Indiana, it’s pretty much a lot of country.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Yes, I have an older brother and a younger sister. We’re all two years apart, so actually I just turned 25 on Tuesday so my brother is 27 and my sister is gonna be 23 in a couple of months.

What are the differences between german and american schools?
There are so many differences, I actually made a fun presentation about it. It’s one of my favourites to give, when an english speaking class is curious about it. But honestly at the conclusion of that presentation the main thing is that german students might be a little bit smarter because the curriculum in the class here is a bit harder than what I remember it being in my highschool. American students are definitely cooler than german students because in America we have a lot of sports, we have a lot of extracurricular activities, we have a lot of socialising outside of school and I just don’t see that happening here. So schoolwise it’s harder here than in the US, but the US has more opportunities for connecting with students and doing stuff outside of the classroom.

And what are similarities?
Obviously they’re both school, so we both come to school for a while and learn stuff in different subjects and I guess the subjects are pretty much the same, we have maths, we have history, we have different sciences, we have foreign languages. Basically it’s the same setup, it’s just executed differently. One example is, we also have foreign languages. Here you can learn English, Latin, French and also Spanish and in my highschool in the US we could learn German, French, Latin or Spanish also, so it’s kind of the same.

Why did you come to Germany, especially to Mainz?
I was really lucky and Mainz was completely random for me. I did chose Germany, so the program I applied for is called the Fulbright US student program. They basically send people who just graduated from university in the US over to different countries around the world to help assistant teach English and so I applied to Germany. I did that for a couple of reasons. For one I studied German at my highschool and I took a couple of German classes in college, so I had a very basic understanding of the language. I’m not very fluent, but I’m working on it. I really like the language because I started actually with Spanish when I was in school and I didn’t like Spanish that much, so I went to German and I really do like the language, even though it’s a little bit hard. And also my family a couple of generations down the line is german. My mom said I’m polish and from my dad’s side we’re german. But I don’t think I have any family I can find here in Germany because I think they came to the US, probably three or four great-grandfathers ago.

What are you doing here in your freetime?
I’m doing a lot of social stuff in my freetime. I’m hanging out with friends, there are a lot of good bars and dance clubs here in Mainz which I really like to go to. I also really like going to cafés, so a lot of my freetime is simply going to one of the cafés in town and bringing along a book and just drinking a coffee, eating a cake, reading a book, which is nice. But I started bouldering since the beginning of 2022, that’s been a really nice hobby to pick up, it keeps me fit and it’s really fun.

When did you come here?
I came here in September of 2021. My program was only supposed to go for ten months but around halfway through the first year I thought to myself „Wow, I really like Germany! I really like working as a teacher here!“ The students are great, the teachers are great, it’s a great situation here, Mainz is a great city. I wondered if I can go about trying to do this for another year. And there was a way to do that, so I applied to extend my contract for a year and with much luck I was approved and I’m back for another year, so I’ll be here until the end of June.

Can you give some details about what your job is at our school?
I’m only an assistant teacher, so basically I’m not very frequently leading a class by myself. I’m always working with another real teacher and my responsibilities are basically whatever they think they need help with or whatever they want me to do. So sometimes I’m sitting in a lesson and offering feedback here and there about how to pronounce a word or what’s a good synonym for a word or about the correct grammatical structure of something. And other times I’m giving presentations about the United States culture, my hometown or anything they might be curious about. Some of the cool topics I get to do are political ones. Some classes have had me talk about abortion in the US, Roe versus Wade and about gunownership in the US, because these are two really big issues. Sometimes I even go out in the hallway and chat with the students, so they can practice their english and I can correct them and they can practice speaking. I think speaking is probably one of the hardest things to pick up with language learning.

Do you have any other jobs besides the one at our school?
Yes, I work part time at a coffee roastery as a minijob. It’s called Maldaner and the roastery is placed in Wiesbaden, but I work at the Mainz location in the Altstadt just a couple of shifts a week. It’s a good situation because I work at the school four days a week and just one or two days in the café.

Do you have any plans for the future?
At the moment I’m trying to figure that out. Actually one thing I think I know is that I want to try to stay in Germany maybe long term because I really like it here. I think the quality of life here is better than the quality of life I had back in the US, just giving public transport and trains and the fact that healthcare is accessible. I’m thinking about trying to get my master’s degree here in Germany because also education is affordable here versus in the US and maybe keep going and get a PhD and maybe become a professor because I really enjoy teaching here. I think it’s something I could see myself doing.