Children learn their native language, no matter how “hard” it may be, because they have no other choice if they want to communicate.
German language immersion puts you in the same situation, and it will help you reach the next level in your studies—regardless of age or where you are in your German learning journey!
Berlin is home to the majority of language schools in the country, but great programs are also available in many other interesting cities, such as Heidelberg and Munich.
Berlin naturally seems like the most exciting place. Cultural life, museums, nightlife, dancing on a terrace by the Spree until the wee hours or seeing incredible art shows—the city has enough to offer for an entire lifetime and more! The only downside is that English is Berlin’s unofficial language, and if you aren’t careful, you may miss out on part of your immersion, as you will likely find lots of people you can speak English with rather than German.
Munich offers a lively city experience with lots of German tradition and interesting landmarks as well as a lower foreigner-per-square-meter density than Berlin.
Heidelberg is a smaller city, famous for its heritage sites and beautiful surrounding nature, and you’ll have to use your Deutsch everywhere.
Here are some immersion programs you can check out in each of these three wonderful cities.
This program is ideal if you want to enjoy Berlin and learn a bit of German while you’re at it. It’s a 9-day program. Each day is built around a thematic unit combining classes, cultural activities and planned interactions with locals.
The Freie Universität Berlin offers both summer and winter academic programs. Students can choose to take either German language courses or courses in a specific discipline.
It’s a comprehensive, full immersion program that includes many opportunities for excursions and cultural activities.
Heidelberg is a charming historical city located in the Neckar Valley. It has inspired poets and musicians alike with its beauty and rich cultural life.
F+U is one of the largest language schools in all of Europe. It offers language, translation and interpreting courses and certificates.
The Goethe Institut has more than 150 language schools all over the world, with several throughout Germany. Their Berlin school is the best for immersion, though. You’ll take intensive classes for two to six weeks with lots of options for extra activities–like city tours, art exhibits and sports.
There’s also a tandem program where you get partnered up with a German native speaker so you can do a cultural and language exchange.
This is another immersive German language school, with locations in Berlin and Constance. Courses are at 30 hours per week for teenagers and adults, and you can take them for a minimum of two weeks.
You’ll get more than just language lessons–the school can also arrange a host family for you, and you can join a daily cultural program and even take trips every week. To get the most out of the experience, you can even stay in both cities.
Vienna is one of the most popular cities for immersion programs. Once home to Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, the city has an incredibly rich cultural history.
Zurich, in the German-speaking region of Switzerland, is another favorite. Famous for centers of finance, Zurich is also one of the loveliest cities in all of Western Europe.
I visited Zurich last year, and my impression was that it’s one of the safest, cleanest, most picturesque cities in the world. With scenic lakes and mountains, great museums and a beautiful Old Town, it’s a great place to learn German.
Benedict is one of the most well-known German schools in Switzerland, and it offers classes in Zurich, Bern, Lucerne and St. Gallen.
Its intensive German classes cover all levels (A1 to C2) and last 10 weeks each, with three hours of classes per day and daily free workshops.
You can find a host family through the school for full immersion, as well as join monthly excursions like historical city strolls and hikes.
Located only a few minutes’ walk from beautiful Lake Zurich (a lovely boardwalk stroll if you ask me), LSI boasts state-of-the-art facilities.
Courses for both adults and teenagers, and tailored training for individuals and small groups, are on offer.
LSI complements language lessons with a varied menu of sightseeing and cultural activities.
Teenager Language Vacation offers supervised German programs in Vienna for learners between 12 and 17.
The courses take place at a lovely campus with lots of green spaces. Student accommodation is arranged in dorm rooms on campus.
Alternatively, host family stays and independent courses with less supervision are offered year-round for those over 16.
This school is an official examination center for the Austrian German Diploma (OSD).
It’s ideal for one-week courses and summer programs. You can make independent travel arrangements and choose between stays at an apartment or with a host family.
It’s located in the heart of Vienna and offers a comprehensive cultural program.
If you want to learn German through immersion but would like to make it into a more integral experience, there are many work-study programs available all over the German-speaking world.
ActiLingua offers paid work in the Austrian Alps for EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland nationals. You can work at hotels, restaurants and ski centers between 20 and 40 hours per week, with either one or two days off each week. Accommodation is usually provided by the employer.
You can become an exchange student if you have at least an intermediate level, or simply work at a ski resort or restaurant with only basic German.
Unpaid internships in Vienna are available for people of all nationalities in a variety of industries. Accommodation in these cases can be with a host family, at ActiLingua’s residence or at private apartments. This is ideal for young people looking to combine their first professional experiences with language immersion.
It’s actually possible to find an immersive German environment even outside of German-speaking countries! Middlebury College is in Vermont, but this language school has been doing immersion programs since 1915. They have a strict premise: you have to speak German the whole time you’re there, otherwise you might get kicked out.
Classes take place for around two months during the summer. Students go through four hours of German classes every weekday, then join activities afterwards like film evenings, lectures and sports—all in German.
While two months might seem short, the program has a good reputation for pushing students to learn quickly—maybe even reaching one year’s worth of progress because of its immersion approach.
While some may argue that it’s better to take some lessons before taking a language immersion trip, such a trip can certainly benefit many beginners as well as most intermediate and advanced German learners.
Here are a few advantages to full immersion:
There is really a German immersion program for everyone. You can take business German in Zurich to advance your career, take a teen vacation in Vienna to enjoy the summer while you learn or simply take a week of touring and learning around Berlin. You can stay with a host family to make your immersion 24/7 or share a posh flat in an eclectic area of Munich with interesting learners from around the world.
On top of this, there are also immersion programs available online, offering a more flexible option if travel is out of the question.
FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.
By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:
Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.
Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.
Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.
To keep things fresh, FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and recommends further lessons and videos based on what you've already studied.
This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)
So, what are you waiting for?
Viel Spaß beim Lernen! (Happy studying!)
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