Children acquire their mother tongue by being totally immersed in the language.
These childhood experiences, like sitting at the family table eating Bratkartoffeln (pan-fried potatoes) and Sauerkraut, help the brain soak up the language by spending time in an authentic German environment.
This immersive environment can be replicated by staying with a German host family, so it’s something you should consider if you want to really learn the language.
- Why Live with a German Host Family?
- Live Abroad with These Phenomenal German Homestay Family Programs
- Finding a German Host Family in a Nutshell
Why Live with a German Host Family?
There are undoubtedly many ways to improve your German. You can learn how to read first and then ramp up your listening skills with radio and TV shows. Maybe you’d find a language partner or better yet, date a native.
You could even go so far as to build yourself an immersive German environment wherever you live.
But what if you’re looking for a little more authenticity?
If you want to sound like a German native, you need to speak the darn language. A lot. Language partners are, of course, one way to do this.
Now imagine you shared a house with a whole group of language exchange partners that shares every meal with you and even makes sure the fridge is full and the laundry gets done. Now that’s what I call service!
Staying with a host family is kind of like that. They’ll be there. All. The. Time. No way you can not speak to them (unless you want to be rude, of course).
Think of it as a giant buffet (open 24/7) for learning German. Opportunities are everywhere: at the dinner table, while watching TV, whenever you leave your room. You’ll always be able to practice your language skills. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?
Learn authentic, everyday German.
Guess what? You will learn real German. I mean, not the textbook pass-your-grammar-test German, but the language how it’s used by its speakers in everyday life: slang, jokes, phrases and sayings that no vocabulary list will ever tell you.
I mean, in which German textbook will you ever find Ditt jefällt ma! (which is Berlinian for I like it!)? Probably not in too many.
There are, of course, language programs like FluentU—which specifically focuses on teaching the language naturally through authentic German videos.
But aside from immersion programs, nothing beats the real-world exposure to the language that you’d get from actually being surrounded by it.
Really get to know the culture.
Apart from that, not only will you experience the language firsthand but you’ll also get a unique glimpse into German culture. Eat authentic food, take part in your family’s pastimes, join them for a cold beer, watch their favorite German TV show and see what it’s like to live life as a German.
Yet, don’t come expecting Lederhosen and Dirndls. You might be thoroughly disappointed (I know I am. Every day.).
There are no excuses for not learning.
As I said earlier, living with a German host family will simply force you to get out of your comfort zone and start speaking. You can only spend so many hours locked inside your private room, chatting with your friends via Skype about how you don’t seem to make any progress with your studies.
Want to compliment the chef on dinner? Better do it in German. Trying to ask for directions? Don’t you dare revert to your native language! Want to know what the hell “Wetten, dass…” is about? I dare you to ask about it while speaking in German. You catch my drift?
Meet new people
Since we’re talking about living the loner life abroad: one of the biggest problems people encounter when going to another country is getting in contact with locals. How many stays abroad have been spent hanging out with fellow nationals from the dorm? Too many, that’s what.
Staying with a host family means you’ll automatically have local connections from day one. People you can converse with on a daily basis, who can show you around and who are happy to share things about their own area and country. Who knows, you might make friends for life. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Live Abroad with These Phenomenal German Homestay Family Programs
“Alright,” you say, “I’m convinced. Where can I get me one of those host families?”
That’s a good question. After all, German families don’t grow on trees (if they did, the German population sure as hell wouldn’t be declining as it is right now).
However, as it turns out, for those who want to take their German proficiency to the next level by staying with a German host family there are many different routes to go.
Language Schools with Homestay Programs
Not surprisingly, others have come to the conclusion that staying with a native family is beneficial for German learners (what a shocker!). Therefore, there are a number of language schools who not only offer German courses within the motherland, but also arrange housing for their students with native speakers.
German Language School Berlin
Where better to study German than in Germany’s vibrant and exciting capital? Living in Berlin with its long and interesting history is an experience everyone should have once in their lifetime. The German Language School Berlin offers language courses and help for placement in a real Berlinian host family.
Price range: 294€-318€/week
Cologne is one of the most alive cities in Western Germany. It offers its own unique culture (ask other Germans about Rheinländer) and is most well known for the Kölner Dom, a huge cathedral, Kölsch and Karneval. The language school Tandem offers to arrange stays with real families from the city during attending their language courses.
Price range: 100€-130€/week + 75€ commission
Education First is a great service for international education. They offer language courses in Berlin and Munich including homestays at local families.
Price range: from $1,390 for two weeks
Au Pair Programs
In case you aren’t familiar with the concept of an au pair: it means living with a host family, taking care of their children and helping with light housework in exchange for room and board as well as a monthly allowance.
In some programs, the family will also pay all or part of the au pair’s fees to attend German classes. Sounds like a win-win situation, doesn’t it?
This site is pretty much the official portal for anything relating to au pair programs by the German government.
It’s supported by the Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth and holds a lot of info for anyone wanting to spend 6-12 months with a German host family. While this site doesn’t offer any placement services itself, it’s still worth going over the provided information.
Gütegemeinschaft Au pair e.V.
The Gütegemeinschaft Au-pair e.V. is a monitoring agency for au pair providers in Germany. It guarantees compliance with quality standards for a safe stay and providers are audited regularly to be certified as such. At the time of this writing, they list 40 au pair services on their website in many different parts of Germany.
Verein für internationale Jugendarbeit
The Association for International Youth Work also helps people between 18 and 26 to find a German host family. It’s part of Diakonie, a reputable provider of social services by the protestant church. You can apply as an au pair online on their site.
This multinational platform brings interested au pair candidates and families together. The website is chock full of information on everything surrounding au pair stays and you can make your interest known online.
This service provides opportunities in Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and other locations. In addition to the usual placement in a German host family, Interexchange encourages participants to attend a month of German classes prior to their stays, which will be reimbursed by the host family.
It’s never to early to start learning a new language, especially German. Therefore, there are a lot of providers helping young people go out into the world and work on their language skills. From summer school to entire years abroad, these services will be able to accommodate your wishes.
This provider offers German courses with homestay opportunities of between 2 to 6 weeks, set up in several locations in Germany for children aged 11 to 18. If you’re older than that, there are also language courses with accommodation in German host families available for participants of all ages.
If you or your child wants to spend an academic semester or year abroad and attend high school in Germany, this service can help you make it happen. Though the site is American-based, they offer their services to students worldwide.
This nonprofit, nongovernmental organization can look back at 65 years of enabling thousands of people to find relevant exchange programs. One of their offered services is helping high school students go abroad to study at German high schools, and this includes placement in a local German family.
If your plan is to live with a German family but stay flexible in your planning otherwise, this service is the right place to start. Much like Airbnb, Homestay.com lets you find host families anywhere in the world, including the country of poets and thinkers. Pay per night, speak German with your hosts and otherwise explore the country at your own discretion.
Finding a German Host Family in a Nutshell
Staying with a real German family is an awesome way to take your German skills to the next level.
Besides learning authentic everyday German, you’ll experience the country’s culture firsthand, extend your comfort zone and make new acquaintances. There are many different roads towards finding a host family in Germany, from language schools and au pair programs to direct booking. Now it’s only a matter of taking that first step.