Sunday, 19 May 2013

A Hard Day's Endless Night

For most of you who know me, one of the first things that comes up, in a conversation with me is the fact that I'm fluent in German. I have been learning the language for 11 years, and it is one of my biggest passions in life. So in any conversation I tend to slip in the minor detail.

In December last year I, along with 8 other crazy people, who I now call friends (Shashank, Piyush, Pranav, Swadhin, Divi, Niket, Gunjam and Simran I love you all to bits), decided to sit for the C2 exam in German. For those of you who don't know, the European language system has been standardized, so C2 is the highest level available anywhere in the world for any European language. After spending an entire year preparing for it, and in my case giving up a job, we were very gung-ho about the whole thing. 

The result however, contrary to expectation, was a nuclear disaster the size of Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together. Only one of us managed to pass the entire exam (yes, yes Mr. Gupta we are all deliriously proud of you) and most of us failed or barely passed all 4 parts of the exam. What was most surprising however, was that at least 4 of us flunked in speaking. Now if you have ever had a conversation with me in German you will realize, I may not be able to do a hell of a lot of things in this world, but German ,especially SPEAKING German is something I can do for a living. Without being conceited, I'm THAT good at it. This is because I have studied German form Institute of German Studies Noida. Run by an Indian couple, Mr. and Mrs. Dayal, the 26 year old institute is, honest to god, world class. I have never had better teachers in my life, and I owe a lot to them. A lot more than just teaching me German, they taught me how to be a better person.

Coming back, the result of the exam was not all that shocking however. I have been studying German for long enough to realize that in the last 6 or so years Max Mueller Bhawan, Delhi has really had it in for us. For all the 11 years, we have been giving our exams at MMB, Delhi as external candidates. In the recent past a lot of students have migrated to IGS Noida form MMD Delhi, and I am in good authority to point out that the internal candidates know the exam paper beforehand. But despite all this, we never begrudged the students of MMB Delhi, because frankly we consciously chose to study at Noida. This is because we feel that IGS genuinely is better. This time however, we had had enough.

We decided to challenge the result and wrote to MMB Delhi stating that we were unsatisfied with the result. After almost 5 months, we only managed to get one reply from MMB Delhi, and it was only after a friend in Germany personally went down to München to file a complaint at Goethe Institut that any action was taken. We were called in, to come and look at ONE of the 4 parts of the exam paper. 

The following was the only English letter we wrote to MMB, the rest being in German.

I am really saddened to write that I am very disappointed with the way Goethe Institute has taken up the matter of the recently conducted C2 exam in New Delhi, India, December 2012. It has been 3 months since I first wrote an email bringing to your attention, that we were unsatisfied with the result, as well as the way in which the C2 examination was conducted, for which 9 of us appeared as external candidates. 

After 3 months of waiting we have only received one email from the director of Goethe Delhi, which failed to answer any of our questions and was overall very vague and unsatisfactory. 

After having been associated with Goethe and the German language of over a decade, I find it hard to believe that no one from Goethe Germany has come forward, or at the very least contacted us regarding the matter. Is this how you treat the students who have been learning the language for many years, some of them for over a decade? Who in turn want to build their careers in the field? Is it not the responsibility of Goethe Institute to ensure that the rights of the students are not violated? How many more months do we have to wait to get a satisfactory answer from Goethe Institute? 

The days are gone, it would seem, when Goethe institute taught German Language as a way to expose people to German culture, when “Deutsch zu lernen, was Deutschland kennenzulernen”. Has Goethe really become a big money making corporation, where we cash in money to pay an examination only? Where in case of any complaints, all one is left with is Rs. 8300 times 9 worth of heartache (yeah heartache for all the love and devotion we have shown the German language) and unanswered emails? 

Considering that we were (probably) the only group of students to take the C2 exam from India, it is a dichotomy of epic proportions that instead of being fair and rewarding us for our efforts (with replies to our emails, if nothing else) we are discriminated against for being externals and not even deemed fit to be shown our answer sheets or have our questions answered. Considering that C2: GDS is the “Gipfel Prüfung” that anyone in the world can give, in light of our experience, I am afraid Goethe Institute is doing (at best) a very shoddy job. 

Might I also mention, that the Stufe-Topper, generally, gets an opportunity to go to Germany in light of his or her hard work and perseverance. In our case of course since we have committed the grave error of being external candidates, all bets are off and, one of us, the only person in India to have cleared the C2 exam, in so far as we know, Mr. Shashank Gupta was offered not so much as a pat on his back, let alone the promise of an elusive scholarship for all his efforts. All he received was a “thank you” email from the director of Goethe Institute Delhi (Which he had to request for). 

One must also take into account that we applied as external students, due to which for some unknown reason, we had to pay two times the examination fees, which is 8300 per person, i.e. 130 euros (I do not understand the concept of paying two times the fees. Is it punishment for not having applied as internal candidates? It is almost the same fees as one would pay, were one to take the exam in Germany; and considering the purchasing power parity of India, we are paying almost 2.2 times the fees that one would pay in Germany). 

What is most surprising, however, is that I have not received even a singly reply from anyone at Goethe Germany, till date in the matter, when in fact Goethe Germany was marked on all the correspondence between us and Goethe Delhi since 3 months. I am very surprised to see no initiative from anyone at the main Goethe Institute. I now wonder if writing emails would actually result into any action at all, but alas the spirit of an eternal optimist and my great belief in the power of good, and somewhere the respect I still have (even after all this) for Goethe, force me to once again write an email beseeching action.

It is things like these over which reputations are lost. I have learnt the language for 11 years but never ever have I faced a challenge like this before. To be honest, none of us need a certificate to prove our German language skills, but it’s the matter of being unfair and non-responsive that I refuse to accept lying down. 

In the words of the renowned Polish Author, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”. 

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,
C2 gruppe von Delhi (Institute of German Studies - Noida) 

Cutting a long story short, we went to MMB Delhi last Friday. The answer sheet that I was shown was bleeding red. I was told that I made grammatical errors, which are not expected from a student of my level. Upon further questioning, a mistake was pointed out as being a spelling error. To my astonishment, the word was error free, and the whole affair was over before I had a chance to look at the paper more thoroughly. I also briefly took a look at the listening module of the exam along with the answer key and unless I'm blind, which my ophthalmologist confirms I am not, the first answer on the OMR sheet was correct. This got me thinking... I wonder what other anomalies lie in the paper that I did not have time to notice? 

The battle is over and from it's side MMB got off scot free. But I really hope they realize that in the future, all of us individuals will make somethings of ourselves and become someone in life, and we will always remember what they did to us. Thank you MMB Delhi, thank you for for teaching us politics when all we wanted to learn was German.

I only wrote this post because I truly believe in the quote I wrote in the email, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”. - Elie Wiesel, renowned Polish Author, Nobel Peace Prize winner, AND Holocaust survivor.


  1. Really.. the last line stole it for me.. prima ..

  2. MMB Delhi has dug it's own grave! They can never produce good german speaking students and now after this horrendous incident, which has definitely left an indelible print , "no external candidate" will take an exam at MMB Delhi ( for C2)!let's see till when can they save their ass!

  3. Even though I might not be as good as you in German, but I also know this that the MMB students cannot speak as the students from the Institute of German Studies... So I was shocked to know you guys failed in Oral... I am sure of one think if the Teacher thought you were good to give the paper then you guys had to be good!! All the best you you all :)

    1. Thank you anonymous, we appreciate the support :). On our part lets just say we are GOOD at Oral as to the abilities of MMB Students, I refuse to comment, simply because it is none of my business :)

  4. Dear Deepti,

    I did Mean to insult MMB Students, all I said was if you gave this paper form IGS then you all must be good. As far as I know, Dayals are quite particular about the quality of teaching and learning and do not allow students to give the paper if they are not good.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Thank you for your confidence in us and our teachers. I understand your feelings, I also don't want to insult anyone. The only reason I made it clear in my reply is because if we start talking about MMB Students then the purpose of the post which is to talk about the management might get lost... hope you understand :)