A Whole Year, Complete! 

Well, it’s official! I’ve completed one whole year of German lessons!

Not only did I complete a year of language study but I’ve also achieved a personal life goal. I have finally attained my internationally recognized Level A certification in German! Words can not describe the pride and sense of accomplishment I feel after a year’s hard-work. I set my goal, and although there were moments where I felt distressed about how slow or hard the process was, I persisted until I met my goal.

I began learning the language after I came to Switzerland just a little over a year ago with a friend. However, it was not until April 2016 that I began lessons with my current school, Handels- und Dolmetscherschule (HDS).

HDS Level A Certificate
Happy to have Achieved my German Level A Certificate
HDS Level A Certificate
HDS Level A Certificate

HDS: The Best Language School in St. Gallen

HDS is located a little outside of St. Gallen city in a town called St. Fiden, not too far from our home. Jerry and I actually learned about the HDS through a friend whose girlfriend (also from a foreign country) was studying there. We decided to register for the course after hearing positive feedback from our friend. I would have to say that it was the best choice I could have made.

The Experience

When learning German, there are three major levels; level A (beginner), level B (intermediate) and Level C (advanced). Each level is segmented into quarters, Part 1.1, Part 1.2 and then Part 2.1 and Part 2.2.

I began in the rudimentary course A 1.1.  It was a bit intimidating at first because the teachers spoke only in German. However, I was equipped with a few German words and phrases I had learned and so could follow along.

HDS offers multiple options for their German courses. The course I selected is quite intense as it is held from Monday to Friday for two and a half hours per day. This was a positive for me because it forced me to interact with the language everyday and eventually made me feel comfortable enough using the language with my peers. However, for persons working a 9-5, HDS also offers evening classes on specific days of the week.

The pace of the class was also well suited for me as it was neither too fast nor too slow. Enough time was spent introducing the topic and further reinforcing it through adequate exercises and homework practice. However, if students are uncomfortable with the pace, an option to transfer to a slower paced course is also available.

I found the course to be well organized and structured. The teaching plan followed a pattern that allowed each new topic to smoothly transition into the next. This ease of transition allowed for a seamless understanding in the themes/topics being taught. The teachers were also well organized in their teaching schedule and were most often always on schedule.

The Teachers

Patient, caring, understanding and dedicated. These are a few words I would use to describe the two wonderful teachers I had for my four quarters spent at HDS. Peter Oberholzer and Floriana Salerno are an exceptional teaching team who put the interests of their students first.

Teachers at the HDS
HDS Teachers: Peter Oberholzer & Floriana Salerno

Peter is the senior teacher of the two, having worked with the HDS for over 15 years. His simple and often times comedic teaching strategies are quite effective in allowing students to grasp the lessons being taught. I would highly recommend anyone who has decided to register with HDS to sign up for the courses taught by Peter Oberholzer.

Both teachers speak with students individually ensuring that each has an adequate understanding level required for the pace of the class. If there are issues understanding, then the topic is explained in a simpler and clearer method. The classroom environment with both these teachers is relaxed, friendly and encourages/fosters open relationships without feelings of intimidation.

HDS Teacher Peter Oberholzer
HDS Teacher Peter Oberholzer
Female HDS Teacher
HDS Teacher Floriana Salerno
My Classmates (New Family) 

My classmates are some of the most interesting people I have met. They come from all walks of life, are different ages and different nationalities; all beautiful in their own right. I have met, Eritreans, Greeks, Iranians, Turks, Croatians, Brazilians and Americans to name but a few. We have all formed a strong bond with each other despite our cultural differences and I would consider them my newly found family in Switzerland.

HDS Classmates
A few of my HDS classmates


The Next Step

A whole year later I feel more at home in Switzerland. Learning the language has given me a great deal more confidence in being around the Swiss people. While I don’t understand everything they say (the Swiss speak a German dialect called Swiss German), I am able to decipher a great deal of what they are saying. Even more so, when I speak “high German” (the term used in reference to the pure German spoken in Germany and what is used as Swiss written language) they are more than friendly enough to respond in “high German” as well.

Aside from from social integration, achieving this goal also represents a big step in my professional development in Switzerland. Many opportunities have now been unlocked simply by attaining this certificate and I am very excited to see what future lies ahead for me and my career.

Patience has brought me a long way on this journey thus far and  I hope to be consistent with it. I’ve set myself a new goal of completing German Level B, which means another year of language study. Hopefully my endeavors will be as fruitful as this successful first year in Switzerland.

Cheers to a fulfilling year!


  • Schön zu sehen, was so ein Jahr intensives Deutschlernen ausmacht, liebe Toni Ann.
    Auch ich fand es sehr schön, mit euch allen zu arbeiten und euch so die Chance zu geben, euer eigenes Leben wieder in die Hand zu nehmen. Weiter so!