According to the latest estimates by the Goethe–Institut, around 14.5 million people worldwide are learning German as a foreign language. While German is ranked as the tenth-most-spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers, it is ranked fourth in terms of non-native speakers, behind only English, French, and Mandarin Chinese. Sociolinguists at the University of Duisburg-Essen have recently found that German is also the fourth-place language in terms of gross national product (GNP) yielded by its speakers, following English, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. German is increasingly popular in developing countries such as India, Brazil, and China, but also is the most-spoken language in the European Union.
With Germany’s dominant role in the recent Eurozone crisis, the language ensures a promising investment for any business-minded students as well as access to a rich cultural history of literature, philosophy, art, and design.
Language Magazine has compiled a list of quality German language institutions for global education experiences in Germany and Austria. If students are not able to travel to Europe, there’s this alternative—an immersion experience in the U.S.:
Concordia Language Villages
The German Language Village, Waldsee, located in Minnesota’s beautiful North Woods, is a renowned German-immersion program in North America and recognized as a national German Center of Excellence by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG). Waldsee offers übercool adventures in German for beginning through advanced learners, all in a fun, motivating setting with master teachers, talented counselors, and participants from across the country and around the world. Students can live Deutsch through exciting Aktivitäten; taste Deutsch with deliciousKüche; hear Deutsch through Musik; play Deutsch with authentic Spiele; and experience Deutsch inder Natur. There are even coaches from the world soccer champions to help kids learn German through soccer. In Waldsee’s one-of-a-kind STEM-D high school credit program, students create a portfolio of projects that develop their STEM skills, all while gaining one year’s equivalent of high school German at their language levels.
The Humboldt–Institut offers intensive programs for many target groups: from summer camps for children in grades 8–12 to special courses for university students to highly specialized language training for executives. This nonprofit organization for German as a foreign language has grown from just one school in 1977 to 15 course centers, including two year-round schools exclusively for young learners (ten to 17-year-olds) in Lindenberg and Bad Schussenried, two year-round schools for adults in Konstanz and Berlin, ten summer centers all over Germany, and a summer center in Vienna. All schools are residential, as the Humboldt-Institut believes in total immersion: the learning process takes place not only in the classroom but also during meals, leisure activities after class, and weekend excursions. This concept proves to be very successful in preparing international students for standardized exams like the TestDaF: a total beginner with no previous German skills can successfully complete this very demanding exam (a prerequisite for university admission in Germany) in as little as seven and a half months.
For more than 30 years, TANDEM has been specializing in modern and successful language training, as well as organizing language partnerships. One will find TANDEM in many attractive cities within Germany, such as Köln (Cologne). TANDEM Köln is located close to the city center in the so-called Südstadt, a district well known for its lively atmosphere with many little shops, bars, and restaurants. The school itself is situated in a former monastery and consists of twelve quiet and bright classrooms, a student library, a small cafeteria, and a nice little garden. The school offers German courses at all levels, in small groups, using communicative methods, in a friendly atmosphere. To foster close contact with the German language outside the classroom, the school offers a full cultural program, private accommodation with Germans, and a language exchange partner, a “tandem.”
Youth for Understanding (YFU) USA
YFU programs are a great way for youth and young adults to see the world up close. With summer, semester, year, and a new two-week program for educators and students in Germany, participants experience the powerful, life-changing impact of exchange. Although the YFU learning adventure lasts only a short time, the impact of study abroad lasts a lifetime. Participants return from their exchange experiences more independent and mature, seeing with fresh eyes. Offering a wide range of opportunities lasting from a few weeks to many months, YFU programs are designed to reinforce common humanity, helping students realize they are all citizens of a single world. As a staff- and volunteer-supported network of more than 70 international partners, YFU helps participants broaden their perspectives and reinforces our common humanity by underscoring that people everywhere share the same emotions, joys, and challenges.
Intercultural Student Experiences (ISE) Germany
ISE has more than 40 years of experience coordinating educational travel programs to Germany that immerse students in the language and culture and help them launch a lifelong interest in becoming global citizens. Students learn firsthand about German history and culture, use their language in real-world situations, and engage in daily life with an authentic family stay mit einer deutschen Familie. The 15-day Bayern und Berlin itinerary allows students to experience the unique cultures of both northern and southern Germany. They start by exploring the sights and sounds of München, then visit the castles of Mad King Ludwig before discovering the medieval charm of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The real adventure comes as students experience authentic German life and put their language skills to the test while living with Gastfamilien. After six days spent learning and sharing with their host families, students will bid them farewell and head to Berlin, a city touched by almost every major European event in the past century. Students will explore the history-rich streets of Berlin, visiting the remains of the Berlin wall, bullet-ridden buildings from WWII, and the contemporary architecture of a reunified city.
F+U Academy of Languages
With branches in Heidelberg, Berlin, and Darmstadt, F+U is one of Germany’s largest language schools and Europe’s largest TestDaF test center. Starting in 2016, students will also be able to take preparation courses for the FSP exam (Feststellungsprüfung), a requirement for students whose high school diplomas are not recognized for direct admission to a German university. In order to equip domestic and international students with valuable skills for the job market, the academy has offered state-recognized vocational training programs for foreign-language-correspondence clerks, translators, and other language professionals since 2004. Accommodation is available in student dormitories, apartments, host-family homes, and hotels. An interesting cultural program is included.
Wayne State University’s Junior Year in Munich (JYM)
Studying in Germany for one semester or the academic year in Munich are both possible with the JYM. Students study at Germany’s top-ranked university in one of Europe’s most beautiful and progressive cities, with the English Garden as their backyard and the Alps within easy reach. Sponsored by Wayne State University since 1953, the Junior Year in Munich is the oldest study abroad program in Germany for U.S. college students, offering full immersion programs at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich). Students in any major with two years of college German design their own programs of study by combining JYM language courses with JYM area-studies electives, university courses, undergraduate research projects, and internships. JYM’s low program fee includes tuition, housing, German health insurance, and more. Scholarships are available. All instruction is in German.
Deutschkurse bei der Universität München e.V.
The Deutschkurse bei der Universität München e.V. is one of the largest language-teaching and test centers in Munich for international university applicants, students, and guest academics from all over the world. In close cooperation with the elite universities Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München and Technische Universität München (TUM), they offer courses and examinations required of international students by German universities. The program includes all-year intensive courses at all levels, preparatory courses for the DSH and TestDaF, and academic-language courses. They also offer special courses that focus on certain topics such as grammar training, German for professional purposes, speaking exercises, academic writing, job application, and conversation.
The Deutschinstitut has been offering successful German courses for more than ten years. Their experienced teachers, along with their supportive office team, work together to help students reach individual learning goals. The Deutschinstitut measures success by the satisfaction of its clients; their positive feedback and loyalty consistently affirm the appeal of the Deutschinstitut’s friendly, international learning environment. Whether students are beginners or already proficient German speakers, the institute offers new courses at all levels every month. This allows for a flexible learning program that suits individual needs and timetables. It is also a certified exam center, enabling students to finish their studies with an officially recognized diploma. Located in a beautiful art nouveau building in the heart of Vienna, the Deutschinstitut offers students the chance to learn German in one of the most trendy cities in Europe.
Eloquent Language Institute
Eloquent is passionate about growing language skills and intercultural understanding. Their experienced staff begin with an in-person language-learning-needs assessment, and they offer year-round German courses for groups and companies, as well as individual training tailored to more specific needs. Students will learn about Austrian daily life through language lessons and cultural activities outside the classroom. The school is located centrally and is well connected to the public transport system of Vienna and surrounding areas. Through the language café, students will learn German with fellow students while developing friendships and connections.
INNES German Language School
INNES Vienna offers German courses for international students and university graduates in a professional and friendly atmosphere. All courses are conducted by teachers who are native speakers and have academic degrees in German as a foreign language. Programs emphasize individual support, state-of-the-art teaching methods, and positive measurable progress. The school is in the center of Vienna, within walking distance of Karlsplatz and the Vienna State Opera. Teaching takes place in a beautiful, elegant building in which the rooms have recently been renovated and refurbished with wooden floors and natural lighting. Every classroom is spacious and has free Wi-Fi access. INNES offers intensive courses and semester programs, as well as courses for special purposes (e.g. architecture) and private classes. German is taught from beginning (A1) to advanced level (C1). Students will study actual texts that prepare them for real language proficiency in both their professional and personal lives.
Deutsch in Graz (DiG)
Founded in 1982, DiG has gained a reputation as one of Austria’s leading German language schools. DiG runs year-round courses for adults (16+), and additionally, it hosts a very well-attended summer school for children (ten–14) and teenagers (14–17). Their trainers teach standard German according to the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) for all learning levels, from beginner to highly advanced. Students have the opportunity to complete their courses with the officially recognized ÖSD exam (Austrian German Language Diploma) at their respective language level. The school is in the center of Graz, Styria, just a few minutes from the town square, in the midst of the old town, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999. DiG offers accommodation with host families, in its own summer school (which is located in a private boarding school, also in the city center), or in dormitories. It also organizes trips to Vienna, Salzburg, and other places in Styria.