When most people think of the best place to study German, the only place that comes to mind is Germany. Maybe it’s because of the obvious name association, or maybe it’s because many people think Austria is part of Australia, but there are actually many places outside of Germany to learn the wonderful German language, with Austria (surprisingly) at the forefront. Home to some of the most famous linguists and artists in the world, international students in Austria will quickly realize that studying German in Austria is an artform of its own.
For such a small country, Austria offers several locations where students can have their pick of language schools, receive a world-class education, and really integrate into a new culture. With both bustling metropolitan areas and smaller-scale cities in the heart of history, Austria is the ideal location to customize your German language study abroad experience.
Vienna. As both the very hip and traditional capital of Austria, there is nothing that Vienna doesn’t have. Home to over 1.7 million inhabitants (or half of the country’s population), it is the ideal location for language schools in Austria. Known as the “City of Music”, Vienna is famous for its innovative performing art contributions, and this affluence and artistic beauty is felt throughout the city. There are many different German language programs in Vienna for students to choose from, including university courses, private language schools, and program-specific classes. Be sure to enhance your language studies in Vienna by taking advantage of all it has to offer, including world-class German operas, high-society balls featuring the Austrian waltz, and apple strudel cooking classes.
Salzburg. The fourth largest city in Austria, Salzburg is one of the area’s biggest tourist destinations due to its two famous families: the Mozarts and the von Trapps. Students who choose Salzburg for their language courses in Austria will obtain a very diverse language education, as this small city is located right on the German border and is home to its own style of spoken German. Language programs in Salzburg are slightly more limited than in Vienna, but there are still plenty of language schools, universities, and immersion programs to choose from, as well as an unlimited amount of (mostly free) activities to do when not in the classroom. To really improve your language skills, don’t hesitate; throw on a dirndl or pair of lederhosen and participate in as many local traditions as possible!
Innsbruck. When foreigners picture Austria, most envision cobblestoned streets lined with charming but elegant buildings with a 360 degree view of larger-than-life snow-capped mountains; this image is real, and it goes by the name of Innsbruck. As the capital of the state of Tyrol and located in the heart of the Alps, Innsbruck is the most quaint city you will ever experience in Austria. Despite its tourist appeal, Innsbruck is an ideal area for language courses in Austria, as its unique location next to Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein will give students a lot of language learning opportunities. It is easy for language students in Innsbruck to feel immersed in the Austrian culture and language, because there is not the same expat and international student population here that exist in larger Austrian cities. Therefore, students will obtain a firm grasp of the language no matter if they are studying at the city’s main university or at a private language school.
Language Programs in Austria
While there are many forms and dialects of German spoken throughout Europe, there are two main types of German used in Austria: Austrian German and Austro-Bavarian/Alemannic German. Austrian German is not usually spoken by today’s Austrians, but instead used in government and official documents, historical texts, and operas. Most Austrians speak Austro-Bavarian German, which is a combination of the previous traditional dialect and Standard German. The majority of grammar is the same between Standard German and Austro-Bavarian German, with the primary difference being vocabulary. Austro-Bavarian German is often regarded as one of the more beautiful dialects of German, as it has almost an Italian accent to it.
There are many types of language programs in Austria, but the most common route students take is enrolling in language courses through a university. German language courses taken at an Austrian university are primarily taken by international students due to the difference in academic schedules, but students will have plenty of opportunities to socialize with local students and even matriculate into some classes as electives. The university setting in Austria is usually built as a “park”, with plenty of cafes and social environments nearby. Be aware that Austrian professors are known to be quite strict and expect their students to put in the work because they want to learn.
Another popular option language study in Austria is attending a private language school. Students who choose this option should be willing to be in class for several hours per day, as the primary goal of private language schools is to increase fluency as quickly as possible. Most private language schools in Austria offer a good amount of flexibility, so pick one that aligns with how motivated you are to learn German!
Costs & Affordability
The cost of language courses in Austria depends on the type and length of your program. While Austria is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it is financially attainable for the average person to learn a language in Austria. If you make an appropriate budget, utilize everything your program has to offer, apply for scholarships, and avoid tourist traps, it will not be difficult to keep your costs low.
The most expensive aspects of living in Austria will be accommodations and transportation. Fortunately, most language schools in Austria include housing and a public transportation discount, but for those programs that do not, participants can expect to spend about $500 to $700 per month for a shared apartment/student dormitory and $50 per month for a city bus or train pass.
Many language programs in Austria also include a meal stipend, but if you shop at a local Spar or Billa grocery store or weekend market, even without a stipend, you should be well fed for around the same cost as your home country. For students who choose language schools in Vienna, be sure to head to the Naschmarkt every Sunday for all of your fresh produce needs, and the attached flea market will cover all of your other needs for a very low price (don’t be afraid to practice your German with the booth owners...they love bartering!).
Accommodation & Visas
Regardless which region your language school in Austria is located, student dormitories and homestays are the two most popular housing options for international students. Homestays are usually viewed as the best way to immerse yourself in the language and local culture, which is why most international language programs emphasize this option. However, student dormitories have their own benefits as well. It is not uncommon to have ten different students from ten different countries all living on the same floor, so maybe you will learn more than just German during your time in Austria! Student dormitories are also usually more centrally-located than homestay options, as most families tend to gravitate towards the outskirts of Austrian cities rather than living in close quarters right in the center.
If you plan to take language courses in Austria for less than 90 days, you can study as a tourist and do not need to apply for a visa. Be forewarned that this option does limit the type language study you can participate in however, as some schools will only accept students who are in Austria under a student visa. Anyone planning to study in Austria for longer than 90 days will need to apply for and receive a student visa before departing for Austria. Most semester or year-long programs in Austria offer visa assistance, so speak with your advisor about this process. You can also find out more information about visas and applications for Austria through GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Integration. The main challenge with language programs in Austria is that, because it is such an advanced and international country, most natives speak better English than we do! This forces language students to really have to think outside the box in order to truly integrate into the culture, which is not a bad thing. This extra effort typically means that the relationships that are formed are much more meaningful, and students will ultimately learn more German.
Location, Location, Location! Austria is located right in the heart of Europe, so students will have easy access to everything. Whether it is traveling on weekends to far-off places or forming lifelong relationships with all types of locals, students will have their pick of anything they want in order to round out their language studies in Austria.
Austria is one of the most accessible places to study a language abroad. Students will find that the solid infrastructure enables them to really feel comfortable and able to learn anything they want. Between the relatively low cost, ease of entrance, and endless academic options, there are no excuses to not study here!