German has always been a language of power. Not only has it been the native language of some of the world’s strongest leaders, but it is also at the core a challenging language to master. But, did you know that German is also a language of romance, religion, and art? Throughout history, German has been the backbone of some of the world’s most beautiful things. No matter if you are seeking out the adventure of the mountainous countryside, the excitement of beer hall culture, or the elegance of its royals and riches, there is a German-speaking location filled with German study abroad programs just waiting for you!
Despite popular belief, Germany is not the only place to learn German abroad! There are actually six different countries in Europe where German is an official language, and hundreds of unique locations within these countries that host German language programs. Regardless of the city they choose, students are guaranteed to become immersed in a rich culture and fall in love with the German language through any language program abroad.
As the obvious first choice for many German learners, Germany offers endless opportunities to study German abroad. From its hopping big cities, like Berlin and Munich, to its quieter educational hubs, such as Freiburg and Heidelberg, Germany offers university-based opportunities to study German abroad as well as private German language schools for every type of language learner. This booming country is home to world-renowned art, technology, and education centers; combined this with its warm and traditional culture and you have the reasons why Germany has become such a popular location for study abroad. International students in Germany will not only enjoy becoming immersed in a deeply-rooted and beautiful language, they’ll also fall in love with the German people, customs, and hardworking, yet welcoming, lifestyle.
For students looking to challenge themselves a bit more and step outside the traditional route by learning Austrian German, Austria is the place to be. Home to several mid-size cities, dotted with universities and German language schools, and surrounded by the natural beauty of the quiet countryside, Austria offers students a different type of German language learning experience, with smaller cities, less of an international population, and more access to cultural integration. Students will appreciate having the ability to really apply what they learn in the classroom with friendly locals on any street corner, in addition to immersing in Austrian culture through traditional festivals, celebrations, and customs.
While Switzerland is home to many languages and cultures, the German-speaking parts make up over 65 percent of the country. German is the only official language of 17 different Swiss cantons, so language students have their choice of bigger cities, such as Zurich, or more natural locations, like Winterthur. Located in the center of Europe, Switzerland is an ideal location for language learners who also want to become immersed in an international melting pot of Italians, French, and Germans.
German Language Programs
German is the native language of over 95 million people worldwide and it is the most widely spoken native language of the European Union, so there are an unlimited number of ways to learn German abroad. No matter your skill level, schedule, or financial situation, there is a German language program that will fit your needs.
University courses. The most popular way to learn German abroad is by enrolling in German courses at a university, because university students have the opportunity to take many different types of classes to create a well-rounded knowledge of the language. In addition to the regular grammar classes needed to learn German, students will also typically have access to music, art, and history classes taught in German, which will help them understand the cultural significance of many parts of the language as well as broaden their vocabulary. German professors expect a lot from students, so international students should be prepared to work hard; however, if you put the time in, you are sure to learn German quickly.
Private German language schools. Another fantastic way to learn German abroad is through attending a German language school. While a university might offer more in terms of course selection, a private German language school usually offers more individualized curriculum and a flexible schedule. Language schools offer intensive German language programs with grammar classes for six to seven hours per day as well as beginner classes with a more relaxed schedule, so regardless of your skill level and dedication, there will be course options for you.
Tips for Gaining German Fluency
There is no sugar-coating it: German is a difficult language to learn. However, since English is a Germanic language and much of the vocab and sentence structure is very similar, learning German is really a natural progression for English speakers. Becoming fluent in German is no overnight project, and students should be willing to dedicate a lot of time to really learn the nuances of the language. Anyone can memorize vocab flashcards, but really understanding how and when to use emphasis words, such as doch, or which adjective ending a word needs can take months of immersion.
The best way to quickly learn German is to get involved in as much as possible. Much of the German language comes from its deeply-rooted customs, so participating in anything and everything will help you learn important vocab and phrases. Whether it be taking a few art classes, attending German operas, or knocking back a couple steins at a local festival, students will quickly obtain a very full knowledge of the German language.
Your living situation will also affect your level of fluency. Homestays are without doubt the easiest way to become immersed in the language and culture, as you will not only be speaking and hearing more German, but students also have more opportunities to watch local TV shows, listen to German music, and participate in traditional activities.
Benefits & Challenges
Fluency in an important language. Studying German abroad is the best way to gain fluency in one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Besides the obvious benefit of being able to communicate with more people, speaking German is a valuable skill in almost any career path. Whether it be the business, art, or the sciences, German is a fundamental language in the development of all of these fields, and understanding the language and culture can give you a serious leg up.
Immersion. Most young people in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the other German-speaking countries also speak English. If you are studying German in a big city, it can be difficult to really immerse yourself into the German language and culture if everyone around you speaks English. To avoid this, select a location that has less of an international population or be firm to those around you that they can only speak German to you. You can’t learn a new language if you are surrounded by your native language!
Despite negative stereotyping, German is one of the most beautiful and traditional languages in the world, and the people who take the time to study German abroad will be recognized as hardworking and unique. Regardless of how you plan on using your German, the skills that you will obtain from studying German in a foreign country are skills that you cannot obtain by doing anything else. Choosing to study German abroad will not only insurmountably strengthen your communication skills, but also your understanding of world history, politics, art, and science.