8 German Immersion Programs for Getting the Language in Hi-def and Full Color
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!
- The Pros of Learning German Through Immersion Programs
- Language Immersion Programs in Germany
- Language Immersion Programs in Switzerland and Austria
- Work-study Programs
The Pros of Learning German Through Immersion Programs
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:
- Rich cultural context: Western civilization owes some of its greatest advancements to German-speaking philosophers (like Heidegger and Nietzsche), filmmakers (like Haneke and Wenders) and writers (like Goethe and Kafka). For anyone interested in German culture, German immersion can be a source of endless gratification. Immersion programs often offer theater and movie outings, museum visits, social gatherings with German speakers and opportunities to “experience life like a local,” which can be both fun and tremendously enriching.
- Faster learning: Language acquisition works faster when exposure to it continues outside the classroom.
- Affordability: Immersion programs and travel costs may seem expensive, but they can actually make language learning more affordable in the long run (when compared to years of language courses).
- The ability to practice what you learn as soon as you learn it: Sometimes, we learn grammar and vocabulary in the classroom, and unless we put it to practice often, we quickly lose it. With immersion programs, there are endless possibilities for immediate oral practice.
- Stimulating cognitive skills: The cognitive and linguistic advantages of learning a foreign language are well-documented. The effects of learning through immersion are particularly positive. For example, according to research from York University, children in language immersion programs perform better in tests of morphological awareness, syntactic awareness and verbal fluency.
- Flexibility: While the programs below do require you to travel, there are also immersion programs available online, offering a more flexible option if travel is out of the question.
A program like FluentU, for example, immerses you in authentic German videos with interactive captions. You can create multimedia flashcards and use the contextual dictionary to define word you find in the context of the video you’re watching. You can also reinforce your learning through personalized quizzes that are readily available for each video.
News in Slow German is another resource that uses authentic German speech but slows it down enough for beginners and intermediate learners to be able to keep up. Each audio recording features a native German speaker, and comes with a full transcript where key words are highlighted so you can see their definition if you hover your mouse over them.
Without further ado, the best German immersion programs in the world!
Language Immersion Programs in Germany
Germany is the top choice for German immersion programs, and as such, it offers a wide variety of options.
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.
EF Tours Berlin
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.
Freie Universität Berlin
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.
Language Immersion Programs in Switzerland and Austria
Austria and Switzerland are among the top tourist destinations in Europe.
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.
With multiple locations around Zurich, EB focuses on everyday situations and vocabulary rather than grammar.
From writing workshops to beginner’s courses, business German and conversation meetings, it offers something for everyone.
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.
Summer Teen Vacations in Austria
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.
Language Vacation Vienna
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.
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. Work-study programs can be a great way to finance your German learning.
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.
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.
There is really a German immersion program for everyone. You can take business German in Zurich to forward 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.
So, what are you waiting for?
Viel Spaß beim Lernen! (Happy studying!)
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