Why not take the perfect opportunity during your gap year to learn a new language? You could combine it with your travelling, volunteering or even working abroad. Here at mapthegap.co.uk we’ve put together some guides for you on language learning during your gap year. We’ve already done one on Spanish, French and Italian and this week we will be focusing on learning German.
Why should I learn German?
German is the most widely spoken native language in the EU and it is an official language in seven countries, which include Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and some parts of Belgium and Italy.
It is also an important language, which belongs to the three most learned languages in the world as well as the ten most widely spoken languages in the world and it is spoken by over 100 million people.
The language is especially important to learn if you want to get into music or scientific research in engineering, physics or chemistry. Some of the world’s best music schools are in Germany and Austria and it is the second language most frequently used to write scientific papers.
Where is the best place to go?
If you want to immerse yourself totally in the German language then your best bet would be to head to Germany or Austria. Many people suggest that the best or most standard German ‘Hochdeutch’ is spoken in the city of Hannover (a bit like how some say that people in Oxford speak a purer form of English). However, many other cities or towns in Germany would provide just as a good a place to learn the language too. Some of the cities in central Germany are a good option as is the vibrant city of Hamburg.
People in Bavaria, the south east of Germany and Berlin, speak in slightly different dialects with strong accents. However both Munich, the capital of Bavaria and Berlin are great cities to live. It’s more important that you like the city you’ve chosen and doesn’t really matter if you end up speaking with a regional accent.
The German in Austria is slightly different from that spoken in Germany and again there are various dialects, however it is kind of like the difference between Britsh English and American English so it is quite easy for Austrians and Germans to understand each other. Elegant and historic Vienna is a great place to learn if you’re heading for Austria and it has a great nightlife too.
Many people in both Germany and Austria speak English very well and sometimes it can be difficult to try and get them to speak to you in German. However, they will usually be accommodating and helpful if you explain to them you want to learn. Generally they are quite friendly people too.
Learning in Luxembourg could prove to be a bit confusing as multiple languages are spoken and written at the same time. For example street names and menus are mostly in French, while newspapers are printed in German but, the advertisements written in French.
Again learning standard German in Switzerland may prove quite difficult too. In Switzerland they speak a very different form of German that has its own pronunciation and vocabulary, which most Germans find a little difficult to understand. The Swiss speak standard German as well and do it extremely well; however, they learn this in school.
How should I go about it?
Enrolling yourself in some German classes in the most important thing when you arrive, you need grounding in the language and grammar, as well as trying to learn on the streets in everyday situations. Some good language schools in Germany are Inlingua, which have 70 language training centres all over Germany; ISK based in Hannover and did deutsch-institut which have centres in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.
In Vienna, try ActiLingua Academy.
In addition to enrolling in classes another good way of immersing yourself in a language would be to do an internship. Try WAVA, gap year and volunteer company who also help organise internships all over the world including in Germany.
A great option if you have some experience with kids or childcare qualifications would be to get a job as an au-pair with a German speaking family, some good companies that have connections or jobs in Germany are New Au-Pair, Great Au-Pair, Au Pair or Easy Au-Pair .
So what are you waiting for ‘Sprechen Deutsch’!