English Success Story

English Success Story: Nicola at Berlin and Other Stories

As this year comes to an end and a new year is quickly approaching, you may be one of the people making New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are the promises you make to yourself  that you’ll make effort to do/change something that you now you should do/change. These are common in the new year, and often include promises about weight loss, exercise, education, and other self-improvements. Last year I wrote about why these are silly, and why you shouldn’t make these resolutions. If you missed that article, you can read it here. Instead, you should focus on more long-term lifestyle choices that don’t have a start or an end date, or some unrealistic result. I hope this English success story helps motivate you to do that.

So think about some long-term goals you have for your English skills. Do you want to get a new job, or start a blog? How about communicate with friends or family, or perhaps travel with more comfort and ease? Do you want to move abroad for school or work? Whatever your goal may be, with practice, dedication, and effort you can reach it. (as long as it’s realistic, of course!)

To help motivate you, and show that success in English is possible when it’s not your first language, I’d like to share an interview with you from Nicola. Nicola’s first language is German; however, she’s running a successful blog in English.

How did she accomplish this? Watch this week’s 5 Minute English video and find out!

Before you start the video, don’t forget your pen/pencil and paper. This week is all about practicing your listening comprehension skills and note-taking abilities. Below this video are comprehension questions for you to answer with the notes you take.

Listening Comprehension Practice

Now that you’ve listened to the interview and taken notes, it’s time to test your listening and note-taking skills. Below are a few questions that I want you to try and answer on your own, before you continue reading the transcript. Are you able to use only your notes? Once you’ve written down some of the answers, continue reading to double check them. Good luck!

  1. When did Nicola start learning English?
  2. How long did she spend in the US?
  3. How does she want to use her English?
  4. What does she want to accomplish with her blog, Berlin and Other Stories (BAOS)?
  5. She struggles with 4 things in English, what are they?
  6. What was the most successful thing she did to help her English skills?
  7. What’s her best piece of advice?

Remember, try and answer these questions on your own first. You may need to listen to the audio again to get more listening practice, and that’s OKAY! When you’re ready, continue reading below for the transcript of our interview, where you;ll see the answers from above.

English Success Story: Nicola

Question (Q): Tell me about you, your native language, and how/why you started speaking and learning English.

My name is Nico and I am the woman behind the blog,  Berlin and Other Stories. I am 23 years young and just started my first after-college-job a few months ago. By day I am now a marketing manager and by night I use every free minute I can get to work on my blog.

As the blog name might have already revealed I have a strong connection to Berlin, Germany. I was born and raised here and adore the city with all of my heart (which is probably the reason why I never left for more than a year). In Germany, we start learning English at the age of 9. So I had my first encounter with the language in school. I loved the subject and the language mostly because I was pretty good at it. Because of that I then started watching TV-shows and reading books in English, which bettered my skills even more.

At the age of 15, I had the amazing opportunity to spend a year abroad in a foreign country. Through this experience, I ended up in Downing, Missouri where I spent my junior year of high school. I fell in love with the midwest, was able to perfect my English and have had an American accent ever since.

(Q): What were your initial goals with English? Have they changed? If yes, how?

English as a language is brilliant, purely because it brings people together. Thanks to its simplicity, many people in all kinds of countries have learned the language and are now able to communicate with each other. So I plan to use my English to connect with as many of those people through business and my personal life.

Considering personal goals, I don’t think my goals have changed too much. As of right now, I am trying to expand my vocabulary, especially to business terminology to become better every day.

(Q): Tell me about your blog (is it a hobby, a side-gig, or a business?) and how it started.

I started Berlin and Other Stories in March of this year as a hobby and creative outlet. Since then it already evolved so much. With BAOS I am now trying to help twenty-something women to be more productive in their everyday life and improve themselves to become the leaders they aspire to be. So I do treat it as a side-gig for now, although I am not making a cent off of it yet. But simply because of the time and devotion I put into it, it would not feel right to just call it a hobby anymore.

(Q): What are the challenges of writing a blog in your non-native language, and how do you overcome these challenges?

Firstly, I am really bad at spelling and grammar. But in my opinion, that is not because I am a non-native speaker. I am just really bad at it in any language. And luckily there are tools that help a girl out with that.

Another thing I struggle with is probably sayings and proverbs. Those are so different from the German ones that it is not possible to translate them at all. You either know them or you don’t. However, I believe in writing they are so important. You can be much wittier with the right proverbs in place. So I am trying to learn.

(Q): What was the most successful thing or resource to reach such a high level of English fluency (ie: living abroad, classes, self-study, movies, etc…)?

Living abroad was the best thing that ever happened to me. Not only for my personal development but primarily because there is no better way to learn a language. I was forced to speak English every day because there was nobody who understood German. Because of that, my learning curve was very steep and after about a month I already started thinking and dreaming in English.

(Q): What’s your best advice for an English learner to reach a level of fluency high enough to blog/write successfully in English?

Obviously, you need to have a certain level of fluency before starting to write a blog in the English language. But nobody is perfect and you don’t need to be either. Something that helped me a lot was reading other blogs that were written in English. You start to see different writing styles, acknowledge the grammar rules and learn more sayings. That helps a lot with finding your own voice in a non-native language.

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About Nico:


Nico is a young woman from Germany, who loves to share her experiences and advice about self-improvement and productivity on her blog Berlin and Other Stories. She once fell in love with a country called the United States of America and has been living the American lifestyle and proudly speaking in a midwestern accent ever since.


Instagram:berlinandotherstories   | Pinterest: berlinandothers

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Do you have a success story that you would like to share with me?

Have you accomplished something in English that you’re proud of, that you think could motivate other students?

Then feel free to contact me about a guest post! Send me a message using the contact form above.

You can also comment below with one of your greatest English accomplishments. What are you most proud of?

Until next time,

Happy Studying ♥


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