Former Team Members:

The challenge was pretty straight forwards; learn conversational German so that my Swiss wife and I could have our own secret language in mixed company. I had a brief stab at online courses and found out quickly that these were aimed at the generic tourist who wants to say ‘Guten Tag’ and ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ when she visits Germany!

Then I met Frau Dr Gerlind and within a week I knew more about learning German than any online course was going to teach me. Marion (I can call her that, now we are friends!) took a very structured and disciplined approach to what is a very difficult language to learn. Within six months of weekly classes, I was able to hold pidgin German conversation. A year later, I can hold my own with the plumber in describing what the problem was. In Switzerland NOT in Berkeley! That is progress. All credit goes to Marion.

If you need to learn German, you need Marion. Period.

- Hari Kumar

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NathanI found Marion online, since I wanted to study German before starting my graduate studies, and have taken both private and small-group classes with her for the past year and a half. Marion has been an excellent teacher, always thoughtful and patient, and expects a high standard from her students. She has given me great preparation and confidence to travel to Berlin for an intensive German course at the Humboldt Universität, which I am about to undertake. She is also a very friendly person, and fun to talk to! I highly recommend the Gerlind Institute to anyone who wants to improve (or begin) their German.
Thank you so much, Marion!

- Nathan Herschel Levine

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My daughter loved taking German lessons with Marion Gerlind. Marion is a creative educator, in both the German language and culture, and under her tutelage, my daughter achieved a strong working knowledge of the language. The culture/history lessons helped make the language more real and accessible. I highly recommend Marion as a person of high integrity and a caring educator.

- Roberta Kunkel, parent of student Caroline Kunkel

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“Marion Gerlind offers an excellent language learning program at The Gerlind Institute. My son was here for the summer after a year of college German and wanted to further his studies. The class met weekly in a small group with very good accompanying text and workbooks. My son said the teaching was top notch and he achieved his goal which was to progress with his German and possibly test out of second year. The program is organized and well taught. Additionally the cost is low for such excellent quality. Communication with Marion Gerlind via email is flawless. I really recommend this Institute.”

This is a recent Yelp! review from Karen B. Please add your own reviews to Yelp! to boost our institute.

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Member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI@Berkeley)
Course taught: “The Zero Hour: Post-World War II German Literature (in English Translation)”


I was unable to attend [the farewell] lunch on Monday but wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed your class. I hope that OLLI will be offering many more classes with you as instructor. Could you let me know if there will be a learning circle (I’m not sure if that's the correct term) related to anything German. Also, could you please put me on your email list for films presented through The Gerlind Institute. I’m pondering the possibility of participating in your language classes to work on my long-neglected German, but am not sure I want to make the commitment at this moment.
I have many years of college credits under my belt and observed college instructors as part of one of professional responsibilities; I can say that you are among the best I’ve seen. You bring great creativity, sound expertise, good energy and well developed organizational skills to the classroom. Thanks so much.

- Eileen Kraskouskas, Ed.D., Member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI@Berkeley)
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I had the pleasure of getting to know Marion over the last several months. She worked with me to clean up my grammar for the German exam I need to pass in order to obtain permanent residency in Switzerland. Marion is professional, thorough, encouraging and kind. She is truly passionate about her work and cares deeply about her students. Thanks, Marion, for being such a dedicated and caring teacher.

- Kristin Jordeth, Communication Director, UBS AG, Switzerland

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I had a wonderful experience studying at the Gerlind Institute. Marion is a clear and thorough teacher, and she was able to customize a program for me that included German grammar, vocabulary, and culture. Working with Marion made me feel confident and prepared for a trip to Berlin, and now that I'm here I can't believe how much I was able to learn in a short time. I highly recommend the Gerlind Institute for any German language needs.

Rebecca Krouner,

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Les Rowntree

In meinem langen Lebens als Student der Welt habe ich viele Lehrer und Lehrerinnen gehabt, aber ohne Frage bist du eine der besten wegen deiner Ermutigung, Sensibilität, und Inspiration. Und dafür bin ich sehr dankbar. In der Tat können Worte nicht wirklich meine Dankbarkeit ausdrücken.

Les Rowntree, Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley,

Rebecca and Cyrus FarivarMarion is a friendly and effective teacher. We signed up for classes with her when we decided to move to Germany for work, but neither of us spoke any German. From the beginning, Marion ran almost the entire class in German, even though we were starting from square one, but it never felt overwhelming thanks to her positive and encouraging attitude. Classes were well organized and fun, and we learned so much in the process. Now that we are in Germany, we are amazed by how we are already able to communicate simple ideas and sentences, and all that after only two months of classes! Her enthusiasm for the language is infectious! Danke schön, Marion!

Rebecca and Cyrus Farivar. Rebecca is an English Teacher and Poet, and Cyrus a Freelance Technology Journalist.

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Penny Dedle

I’ve taken several German classes in groups and decided that I wanted the attention and focus of private instruction. I was delighted to find Marion and the Gerlind Institute. Marion is a very talented, inspiring and patient teacher. She is genuinely interested in her students’ lives and cares deeply about helping them improve their German skills. She is great at figuring out how you in particular learn, and she’s also good at pushing you that extra bit. I thoroughly enjoyed the two years I spent learning with Marion.

Penny Dedel, Berkeley


Marion was a fantastic teacher of German and our sessions were really enjoyable. I am an intermediate speaker of German and wanted to get more familiar with some basic phrases and professional vocabulary for my work. Prior to my trip to Berlin we met once a week for six weeks. The lessons helped me immensely. Phrases and words that we studied were reinforced with the audio-recording I made, and in everyday situations while traveling. I felt more confident speaking in German and this was ever so meaningful.

Marion is truly an excellent, patient, and engaged teacher. She is well prepared for lessons, and discusses the goals with students on the first session. Her teaching style is very directional, and also collaborative and flexible. I recommend Marion highly!

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Nell Cohen

Marion is a responsive, knowledgeable and confidence-building teacher, as well as a kind person. She gives full attention, full patience, and an open mind.

Marion makes a point to be well-prepared with outside materials and lesson plans, but she's also flexible with her curriculum. It is genuinely important to her to teach towards a student's personal German-learning goals, and she listened and adjusted her teaching to meet my interests, questions, and needs, and she encouraged me through every step of my learning.

I have found that there are advantages to learning from a native German, and was able to ask her many questions about the idiomatic usage of different words or phrases.

Additionally, as a college student I could not have studied with Marion if not for her sliding-scale prices. She shows a real commitment to working with students from a variety of backgrounds.

-Nell Shaw Cohen, musician and student at New England Conservatory

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Marion was a tremendous help to me in writing and editing my application materials in German for the International Parliamentary Scholarships program (which included an essay, my resume, and paragraph answers to several questions). She was very helpful not just with the translation of my materials and the proofreading of spelling and grammar, but also in terms of editing my materials so that my application conveyed how much I wanted to participate in the program, and was tailored to the program's goals. Although I was not selected for an interview for the program, in retrospect, I am glad I completed the application because I learned a lot from Marion and it was a good experience to have—it made me realize how much I am still interested in the German language, culture and the country, and has rekindled my desire to continue with my German studies. It meant a lot that Marion was willing to help out someone who she'd only met once before, at a previous conversation group meeting; she truly exemplifies the role and ideals of a teacher.

Noeline Arul, San Francisco

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Paulo-Juarez Pereira

Bevor ich Marion fand, war ich verzweifelt, und ich wusste nicht, was ich tun sollte. Ich hatte einen Deutschkurs belegt, der es mir erlaubte, die Prüfungen zu machen, ohne die Klassen zu besuchen. Nachdem ich das Textbuch bekam, wusste ich sofort, dass ich das Material nicht allein bewältigen konnte. Nachdem ich mehrere Wochen mit den Stoff kämpfte, gab ich auf und suchte nach einem deutschen Tutoren. Ich fand viele, aber etwas an Marions Beschreibung war sehr zugänglich und qualifiziert. Sie war eine deutsche Muttersprachlerin, sie zeigte Enthusiasmus, und sie war flexibel mit verschiedenen Niveaus. Meine Intuition war richtig. Es gab Tage, an denen ich völlig überwältigt war, aber ich kam trotzdem zu meinen Privatklassen, und Marion führte mich durch diese schwierigen Zeiten bis zu dem Punkt, an dem ich den Kurs erfolgreich absolvierte. Sie hat mich inspiriert, weiter zu machen, sogar in Momenten, in denen ich scheinbar keine Energie mehr hatte. Ich empfehle sie als eine ausgezeichnete Lehrerin.

Paulo-Juarez Pereira,

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Marion is an exceptional teacher. She makes learning German fun! She was always positive and encouraging. I looked forward to and enjoyed each class. Marion possesses the gift of teaching and gave me confidence in my abilities, even when I struggled. It was refreshing to learn with Marion. My only regret is that our time was so short. I hope to be able to study with her again in the future.

Laura Carpenter

Happy New Year, Marion!
This note is just to say how much I appreciate what you are doing for German cultural studies. Even though I am not studying German with you anymore, I love reading your website. It is so well done and informative; I hope you have many more successful years with GICS.

- Best regards from Margreta von Pein

Thanks so much for your excellent professional service. This [translation of old German documents into English] is a nice addition to my husband’s family tree.

- Nancy Drews, Minnesota

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Ramie Gold

Working with Marion the past several months has been very rewarding. As a requirement of the Ph.D. program I'm in, I had to pass a German translation exam, and this is what Marion and I worked on together.

Over the past semester, my translation abilities improved remarkably, due in large measure to Marion's ability as a patient, effective German tutor. She tailored our lessons to those that would best suit my needs and encouraged me with consistent reinforcement and helpful strategies. Cannot praise Marion enough. Her teaching abilities are matched only by her own character, which is honest, considerate, professional, and kind.

Last September, before I began taking lessons with her, I did not stand a chance at passing this translation exam but I'm pleased to say, that after a semester working weekly with Marion, I successfully passed this challenging exam last month.

Ramie Gold, Ph.D. student, UC Berkeley

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Anne Klint

I cannot speak highly enough of Marion Gerlind and her language training! I am the recipient this year of a highly competitive Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to study abroad in Leipzig, Germany. Basic language competency is naturally required to study in many foreign countries, but having learned German in high school and a bit in college (too many years ago to mention!), I thought I would be able to pass my preliminary language exam.

Boy was I mistaken! In a panic, with my scholarship hanging in the balance, I had the good fortune to find Marion Gerlind. Not only was she able to accommodate my frantic schedule, but also in a handful of sessions she helped unlock my latent German skills and thoroughly prepared me to successfully retake my language exam. I refuse to consider my fate had we not met! Vielen Dank Frau Gerlind—für deine grossartige Hilfe und Freundinschaft!

Anne M. Klint, Artist

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Ti-fred Torres

Marion has been a great help to me in learning German over the last two years. She had a multitude of training techniques and was very adept at picking the ones that would improve my comprehension the fastest. She could clearly explain German grammar, which is notoriously difficult, in a manner I could follow. She could clarify not only the rules of grammar, but often the sense behind the rules. Other tutors I had tried couldn't provide this level of insight.

At the same time, she kept the learning process fun by using casual conversation and role-playing in German. She was patient when I needed help, but also knew when to challenge me to find the right words myself. Over time, I found our lessons a very comfortable place to speak and listen to German, which is exactly the type of environment I needed to improve.

Finally, Marion made a real effort to reveal the culture and cultural perspectives of Germany. I believe that, in her view, an essential part of learning a language is learning the cultural perspectives of the language-speakers. These are the things a textbook cannot teach and prove very valuable when learning a language.

Ti-Fred Torres, Director of Xinet Technical Support

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Marion was an amazing tutor, and I highly recommend her. Her teaching style is warm and thoughtful, and she is personally committed to helping her students meet their goals. In less than three months, she taught me how to read very complicated scholarly German articles so that I could quickly translate them into English. I was very impressed with her breadth and depth of knowledge about German language and culture, and also with her efficiency. Thank you Marion!
Elisabeth Ward Hightower, Ph.D. student, UC Berkeley

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Scott Miller

I am privileged and honored to provide this recommendation for Dr. Marion Gerlind. Dr. Gerlind has served as my private German tutor for over two years. I find her teaching methodologies age and culturally appropriate, engaging and refreshing. Dr. Gerlind draws from her wealth of experience as a language teacher, native German speaker and oral historian incorporating cultural aspects of German literature, folk traditions and history to enhance instruction and language acquisition. Her mannerisms are gentle, attentive and engaging. Teaching plans are mutually negotiated with attainable set goals to ensure the student progresses at a satisfactory pace.

I have progressed with Dr. Gerlind from the point of a non-speaker to achieving the ability and inner confidence to tour Germany alone, speak with local residents in German, utilize basic German reading skills and be comfortable in group social settings. Dr. Gerlind has assisted me to build a bridge to my German roots and enriched my life.

Scott W. Miller, RN, MS, Ph.D. (abd)

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Madeline KingsleyI have studied with Marion for the past 3 years in order to resuscitate my high school and some college German (from some 40 years ago) for the purpose of genealogy. Marion has been marvelously supportive and adaptable to my chosen learning methods, which included free conversation on every topic imaginable, writing letters and deciphering old ones written in the old German script, and scant outside preparation on my part. Through our once-a-week sessions Marion has brought me from a “hopeless with languages” person truly afraid to volunteer any words “auf Deutsch“ (in German) to a confident conversational participant always eager to speak up at Klönschnack, the monthly German language group founded by Marion. This last summer, I was able to engage with Germans who spoke no English, and to navigate my way through the Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv in Stade, Germany.

Though it is apparent Marion has formidable talents, her approach is the opposite of intimidating. She takes careful notes during each session, and guides the conversation back to familiar topics to repeat vocabulary. She alternates between letting words flow freely, mistakes included, and going over finer points of grammar and syntax in a clear, concise manner. She is amazingly patient. Marion is truly the reason I have persevered to conquer an area of learning that is difficult and frustrating for me. I recommend her to anyone.

Madeline Kingsley, UC Berkeley UNIX computer, retired

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I have been a German language student of Marion Gerlind’s for the past 10 years (the first three years meeting regularly with her for private and semi-private lessons, and since then meeting with her for assistance on translation projects and in group classes she has held.)

I have the highest esteem for Marion as an instructor. She is truly gifted—with a natural talent for teaching, which she has developed and enhanced through her interacting with her many private students as well as her university-level teaching and studies. The one hundred percent full attention she gives to everything she does she gives to her teaching as well, and it is evidenced in my learning of German as well as the results I have seen in other of her students.

When I began studying German with Marion I was an almost complete beginner. I have never learned another foreign language so quickly, easily and naturally. Marion is able somehow (seemingly magically) to impart knowledge, support, and confidence to her students that translates into enlivening and enjoyable yet solid core language learning that is intellectually stimulating and challenging. Her lessons are always thoughtfully prepared: they usually (at least in my case) included “everyday” conversation as we shared about the week “practical” situational German (for example exercises in asking or giving directions, or booking a hotel room); and literature or other reading with discussion of form and content. I always leave an instruction hour with Marion feeling more stimulated, enlivened, and informed than before.

Marion's aliveness, effectiveness, ethics and joy-in-teaching are a gift and great luck to anyone who studies with her.

- Lu Stevenson, Oakland

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Attending Klönschnack provides occasions to practice expressing ideas about current topics in German. The opportunity exists as well to share the impressions of those who have visited or lived in a German speaking country. Interesting exchanges result in a group of different ages, profession, and origins. ~ John

Marions Persoenlichkeit spielt eine sehr grosse Rolle in der Bedeutung der Gruppe. Als Vergleich habe ich auch einmal im Monat mit dem anderen Stammtisch ein Treffen. Da gibt's keine Leiterin/keinen Leiter, die/der uns eine Richtung gibt und Ordnung hält.

Wir wissen alle, dass es wohl einen Zweck hat, dass wir uns treffen, sonst kämen wir nicht. Es ist wohl der Unterschied zwischen Plaudern und Fleiss. AmerikanerInnen, vielleicht so viel wie Deutsche, empfinden einen Drang zum zweckvollen Austauschen, das beide Seiten erfüllt. Es ist wahrscheinlich auch wahr, dass alle Unterhaltungen in sich einen Wert für beide Seiten haben. Man stellt aber fest, dass wenn es im Voraus zweckvoll bedacht ist, man die Erfahrung hat, etwas als Ergebnis bekommen zu haben. Das ist zufriendenstellender. Dies ist meiner Meinung nach auch für die Leute wahr, die im Voraus nichts vorbereitet haben. Denn sie wissen, dass es organisiert ist, zeitmäßig und inhaltlich, sodass sie ein Ergebnis erwarten.

Ich danke Dir für deine Leitung, Genauigkeit, und pünktliche Zeitgrenzen. Sowas gehört zu der deutschen Kultur genau wie die Sprache selbst.
~ Travis Fretter

Former Team Members •  back to top

Aaron WoesteAaron Woeste
Aaron was first exposed to German by studying music of German composers as a young adult. He subsequently enrolled in his first language class at a local junior college and later continued his studies as an exchange student in Leipzig. After earning his bachelor’s degree in German, Aaron served at AYUSA Global Youth Exchange as Coordinator for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program, a cultural immersion program for high school students.

Aaron then served as Development Associate at Berkeley Symphony, where he oversaw grant operations and managed the application and reporting process. He was a student at the Gerlind Institute from 2013 to 2015. In 2016, he completed his Master’s degree in Linguistics and Literary Studies at Middlebury College. He now lives and works in Berlin. Drawing on his extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, Aaron was responsible for building capacity for the Oral History Series by expanding its financial resources, establishing partnerships with other entities and developing fundraising strategies.

Tony OokaAntonio (Tony) Ooka
My parents are Chamorros, natives of Guam, who moved to California in the 1950s. I was born in San Jose and attended primary and secondary schools run by the Jesuit order. I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988. I entered the realm of German language at university, reading Kafka, Max Frisch and much later, Thomas Mann and Hans Fallada. To my ear, classic Standarddeutsch has an elegant sound and rhythmic phrasing; witness the acting performances of Wolfgang Preiss.

Why study German? A knowledge of German has opened up a whole new world to me. German Unity Day 1992: I attended an anti-fascist rock concert in Brandenburg, outside Berlin. It was a politically tense week. Right-wing and left-wing groups were clashing. Foreigners were being attacked, even killed, on the S-Bahn. My friend Jens, other Stadtguerillas and I braved the night, traveling from the relative safety of Berlin-Reinickendorf to the dark suburbs of Brandenburg. That evening at the concert I met young Germans who had never spoken to a foreigner. At the Gerlind Institute I hope to build community and understanding through language.

Brigitte Schulze PilibosianBrigitte Schulze Pilibosian
I love languages as a medium for communication. When we are able to express ourselves through the use of language we have a chance of mutual understanding. With this in mind, I like to teach students German even though my degree is in Russian. As a German native speaker, I taught students in the Ukraine both German language and journalism.

My work as a journalist, book author, and radio presenter made me realize my love for the German language as a bridge of communication. Since 2016, I’ve lived in the Bay Area, where I pursue my passion of educating people about Eastern Europe and teaching German.

I am happy to join the Gerlind Institute team.

Jennifer Hilfer

Jennifer Hilfer
I was born and raised in the southwest of Germany and recently graduated from Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany. From January 2009 to August 2010, I studied Linguistics/TESL and taught German at Indiana State University (ISU) in Terre Haute, IN. At ISU, I received my first master degree and then completed my second master degree (Erstes Staatsexamen) in German, English, and Pedagogy at Johannes Gutenberg-University. I am especially interested in teaching languages and Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies, and Feminist Linguistics. During my time in the United States, I joined the Gerlind Institute for my internship in June 2009.

For me, learning and teaching languages and cultural studies, or, in other words, everything that the Gerlind Institute stands for, enables us to broaden our cultural and personal horizons. The Gerlind Institute offers us all an opportunity to build a strong, visionary, supportive, creative, caring, and diverse community.

Read Jennifer's Bericht here.

Leticia AndreasLeticia Andreas
Born in Dresden, I had to leave my native East Germany in 1975 as a young child with my parents, due to their “political differences” with the regime. It took me 32 years to emotionally return, realize, and rediscover my true roots to my homeland. In West Germany, I lived in Braunschweig and Wunstorf, finishing high school. Immediately after graduating, I attended high school for one year in Pennsylvania, USA, as part of an exchange program. Upon returning to Germany, I studied at a 2-year business college in Hannover, and received a certificate of "Economics Assistant of Foreign Languages and Correspondence." Subsequently, I worked in various corporate positions.

In 1991, I immigrated to the United States, majoring in Music and fulfilling general education requirements at Los Angeles City College. From 1998 to 2000 I attended the University of California at Los Angeles, and received my Bachelor's Degree in Ethnomusicology. At that point, I had achieved one of my biggest dreams: to study music! In 2005, I moved to Northern California and settled in the East Bay. Since January 2007 I have been teaching German on Saturdays at the German School of Fremont. I suddenly realized my love of my native tongue: its delicacies and intricacies, its poetic intelligence and grammatical challenges. Now I even spread “Germanisms” daily throughout my community and the internet, to make English speakers aware of the fact that German and English once were the same language and have much in common, while having developed such different structures over time. I also began to study Old German/English/Norse, and am continuously amazed by their similarities and development. Being born in the state of Sachsen (Saxony), and tracing my family line back for hundreds of years there, where a strong accent presides, I began to buy books and research the internet of this, my true native, local accent, with much amusement and passion. Because of my East German background, I am especially interested in the history and culture of that area, and now spend a few days in Dresden every time I return for family visits.

To me, the Gerlind Institute provides an engaging, personal, and family-like atmosphere to study German on cultural and humanities levels, with much focus on current issues. I am happy to be part of German studies in such a supportive and academic environment.

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