If you choose to pursue a university level education in Germany it is important that you possess good English language skills and abilities to communicate effectively within your host nation. The many German language schools available can help you with this.
It goes without saying that your level of linguistic expertise will have a major effect upon your learning experience. Being able to freely share in discussions, tutorials and lectures is fundamental to this process. In addition, a foreign student also needs to immerse themselves in the culture of their host nation.
Like most European countries, Germany offers many resources to help you to acclimatise both linguistically and socially to your new environment. It is probably better for you to have studied some basic German before travelling and then improve your abilities in situ to gain the level of competency required by German universities. Failing, this there are many beginner’s courses that can set you on the right path from the beginning.
German language courses follow the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and cover all six language levels. These range from ‘A1’ grade which asseses the abilities of a basic user, to’ C2’ level which exhibits a significant mastery of the language.
The minimum language requirement at German Universities is ‘B1’. This level demands:
• Comprehension of standard German usage.
• The ability to listen and read.
• The ability to speak and write interactively.
• The ability to translate and interpret in a mediative fashion.
All of these abilities need to be demonstrated within the constraints of a variety of situations – academically, work-related, social / public interactions and personal revelations (speaking effectively about yourself).
There are opportunities to study at campus-based schools or private German language schools.
If you are reading this, you have already decided upon your chosen academic subject and the German university that you wish to attend.
The first thing to check is whether your university of choice has a campus-based language centre that helps incoming foreign students to meet the university’s basic language requirements.
Attendance at these university language courses is not compulsory and you can choose private tuition if you wish.
Although, the university courses are free for students, they are of a fixed modular structure that cannot be tailored to individual needs. Many students may find this approach unduly constrictive and incompatible with their learning needs.
Some students may be able to balance the campus-based approach with free on-line training that offers alternative tips and study materials.
Private language courses may be more appropriate.
Private tuition, by definition, is more flexible. It’s advantages include:
• Course variety;
• Schedule and curriculum flexibility;
• Class location.
In addition, private German language schools have extra-curricular activities to help you enhance your cultural and linguistic experience within a range of settings and environments.
Obviously the tuition choices that you make will have cost implications:
• What type of course do you want?
• Do you need to start at the beginning or enhance the work that you have already achieved?
• How many classes do you need to attend?
• Are you happy to work within groups?
• Do you need individual tuition at the time of your choosing?
• Are you happier achieving everything you need on-line?
All of these considerations need to be taken into account. Fortunately, the range of choices available is extensive enough for you to ‘tailor-make’ the best arrangements to satisfy your individual learning needs.
You should also be aware that, typically, German language school courses last between 4 weeks and 8 weeks (depending upon provider and level of knowledge you require). If you already possess a basic knowledge of the language, you may be able to complete the course more rapidly.
How to Apply to German Language Courses
Once you have decided upon the right mix of courses, applications can be made on- line at the school’s website.
Obviously, you will need to enter your personal data. In addition, you can confirm the choices that you have decided upon:
• Preferred course / combination of courses;
• Type of course (group or individual).
Do not forget that you can build towards the ‘B1’ requirement of your chosen university in your own way and at your own pace!
Learning at a German language school will not only allow you to flourish academically, it will also help you to engage fully in the German culture, meet new friends and have unforgettable and unexpected experiences.