Learning German: Goethe Institut

So, as I promised yesterday I will start highlighting different German language schools in Germany and I would like with the Goethe Institut. On their website they claim to be the “world-wide market leader for teaching German” and well, that is probably true. They were my first guess when we were thinking about the right German course for Ali. Their schools have a very high reputation among employers in Germany and abroad and offer a great variety of different German course concepts, such as courses especially for children and teenagers, professionals and intensive courses. I took a closer look at the “intensive 4” course because it is easier to compare a 4-week/one-month course with offers from other schools. Here is a list of what the course includes:

  • max. class size: 16
  • intensive language training from Monday to Friday
  • all levels
  • placement test at the beginning of the course
  • systematic advice on your learning path, including a learning portfolio
  • opportunity to take an examination at the end of the course
  • all course materials
  • self-directed and supported learning in the media resource center
  • extensive cultural and leisure program

In the follwing I will point out the main advantages and disadvantages of this school. I have also read many reviews to come up with a more reliable judgement since we haven’t decided for any school, yet.

The pro’s

  • The website: This might sound silly but for me nothing is worse than a website where you don’t find the information you’re looking for almost immediately. Their website is clearly structured and arranged and you find the information you’re looking for in the place you would naturally look for it – probably even in your first language. Sounds self-evident but sadly it’s not. It’s unthinkable how many horrible websites are still out there – what year is it?
  • Variety of cities: There are schools all over Germany so you are free to choose what part of Germany you would like to get to know when you’re not in class. The locations for the 4-weeks intensive course are Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Freiburg, Göttingen, Hamburg, Mannheim, Munich and Schwäbisch Hall.
  • Language course + internship: Goethe Institut isn’t the only school to offer a language course in combination with a subsequent internship but I think it’s a great opportunity to gain professional experience for anyone who plans on working in Germany in the future.
  • High reputation among employers: As I mentioned above the courses at Goethe Institut are highly recognized among employers. Here is a quote that struck me while reading about people’s experience with Goethe Institute: “People all over the world recognize the Goethe Institut. As an example, a friend of mine passed the DAF [German as foreign language test] and ZOP [C2 level] examinations last year. Both of those are state sponsored examinations. When he showed them to his American employer, he was asked whether he could provide a Goethe-Zertifikat instead!” – To be fair, the ZOP has been integrated into the C2-Goethe certificate in 2012, but it’s still speaking for the reputation of Goethe Institut.
  • Employees seem to know what they’re talking about: When I called at Goethe Institute to get personal consultation and more information about the visa procedure the woman on the phone really seemed to know what she was talking about. This is something I would have naturally expected but when I called at InLingua in Hannover for example they told me different things than what they had on their website – that’s always odd. I can’t say anything about the teachers
  • Help to find accomodation: Not everyone might be in need of help to find a place to stay but especially when you come from another continent it would give me a good feeling to rely on the school to help me a room instead of ending up with obscure private offers. These are the rooms in Schwäbisch Hall for example (click on the slideshow at the top of the page).
  • Easy online booking form

The con

  • The prices: Uff, I had to swallow hard when I first read those numbers. The basic 4-weeks intensive course costs about 1045€ (varying a little depending on which city you choose), 1195€ in the summer months of July and August. And that’s just the course, accomodation will add with additional 300-700€ per month (also varying on the location – bigger cities such as Hamburg or Munich are usually more expensive). I mean, that’s a lot of money – for one month only. Compared to other schools this is really expensive and I am not sure if they can always make up to the expectations connected to such high fees. As anywhere else the experience gained and progress made depends highly on the teachers you end up with, I have read as many recommendations of Goethe as of people saying it was horrible.

So although I only named one con for German class at Goethe Institut it’s a pretty strong one. I encourage you to find reports of people who have taken a course at Goethe in the location you would like to stay. Only that way you can estimate how good the teachers are. Keep in mind, though, that in the end experience is always subjective.

Have you studied at Goethe Institut and are able to give some insights? I’m looking forward to your comments!

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Learning German online and for free: Deutsche Welle

For all those of you who want to learn German but cannot afford or bring themselves to spend money on professional courses, here comes a free alternative that I discovered when Ali’s old German teacher abandonded him and he could not find a new one that quickly.

The Deutsche Welle is a German broadcasting organisation that features well researched articles and information about events all over the world in 30 languages. It is definitely a good source when it comes to accessing news about events in Germany in your native language as well but what is even better is the free German self-learning lessons they offer. It includes a free placement test, articles and texts to improve your comprehension as well as audio files and slowly read recent news to train your hearing – everything matching the different levels of your language skills. Another plus is that the news part is being constantly updated so there is always new content to learn with. As far as I can tell there aren’t any better websites to learn German for free. If I should stumble across one, anyway, I will definitely let you know.

It does take some self-motivation and time to learn German (or any language) this way, of course. I used to give Ali homework that I would control to build up a little pressure that he needs to get things done. If you do not know any native speaker who has the time to be your “teacher” then try setting yourself repeating reminders on your phone or save yourself one specific evening a week to spend an hour or so on this website – excercising or reading whatever you feel like in that moment because there is no point in killing your motivation by doing things you don’t like.

This site is less suitable to practice your speech but definitely helpful in getting to a point where you  feel more comfortable speaking when it comes to vocabulary and grammar. Hope you can make good use of it!

>> www.dw.de/learn-german/s-2469