Integration Courses and Learning German
Last updated: 07 April 2020 / by Jack Harper
Due to COVID-19, there is a good chance that classes will not be running for the duration of the pandemic. These are uncertain times and the situation is ever-changing, but you can always contact your local municipality and ask for clarification and updates.
To make the most out of life in Germany, you’re going to need to learn the language.
Germany has a rich history, a unique culture, and a specific legal system that any foreign resident would benefit from knowing.
Luckily, Germany has a well-organized system to help foreigners settle into German society. This article will outline everything you need to know about German integration courses, as well as introducing other ways of learning the language.
What is an integration course?
Integration courses are a series of classes consisting of a language course and an orientation course. They were introduced as part of the Immigration Act of 2005, with the intention of easing a foreigner’s transition into German society.
The language component of the course consists of 600 hours of lessons. The minimum target for all participants is the A2 language level. However, a level of B1 can also be achieved by more advanced speakers. These lessons also provide guidance on writing letters and emails, handling administrative tasks, and interviewing for a job.
The orientation component of the course consists of 100 hours of lessons. It teaches participants about Germany as a whole, paying particular attention to history, culture, and law. The classes cover many aspects of everyday German life, including shopping, the workplace, and childrearing. Participants will learn the values of German society, gaining an understanding of how people live and interact.
Upon finishing the course, participants are required to take a free test. Passing both the orientation test and the language test (at a B1 level) will grant the individual a ‘Zertifikat Integrationskurs’. This certificate provides many benefits, including helping with job finding and dealing with authorities. It also allows the individual to apply for German citizenship after seven years of lawful residence, rather than eight.
Who should participate in an integration course?
These courses are mandatory for non-European immigrants who cannot speak German at a basic level. Prior to beginning the integration course, participants will be required to take a placement test. This will assess the individual’s language ability and German knowledge, thus determining whether or not the course is required and the specific course level that should be taken.
EU citizens are not required to take the course, but they are more than welcome to if they want to advance their German language skills.
As of 2015, the following people are eligible to apply for an integration course:
- Foreigners who have lived in Germany for a long time
- New immigrants with permanent legal residence
- EU citizens
- Refugees or asylum seekers with a tolerated stay
- German citizens of foreign origin with insufficient German language ability
If an individual is unable to attend the course due to full-time employment, caring duties, or other reasons, they may be granted exemption from an integration course.
Where to find integration courses
As a non-EU, you can go to your local foreigners’ office and be issued a certificate of eligibility. This certificate grants you access to an integration course.
As an EU citizen, you can contact the Federal Office for Migration in order to apply for a place on an integration course.
Next, you’ll want to find a course provider. The foreigners’ office can help you with this as well, or you can contact the migration advisory center. Alternatively, you can search the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
When you have found your nearest provider, you should make contact either in person or via telephone. They will give guidance on selecting an appropriate course, inform you when the next course is scheduled to begin, and arrange for you to take the pre-course test.
Big cities such as Munich and Berlin are home to some of the best integration courses. Contact the Munich or Berlin foreigners’ office to discover a thriving community of German integration.
Alternative methods of learning German
Aside from the official integration classes, there are a number of private lessons, group lessons, online lessons, and meet-ups that can set you well on the way to German fluency.
For many people, however, the thought of sitting in a classroom and reliving their school days isn’t an entirely exciting prospect. If you’re an EU citizen, then participation in an integration course isn’t mandatory, and there are plenty of non-classroom options out there for learning German.
One of the best things about the digital age is the wealth of information that’s just a few clicks away. Language learning has never been more accessible – here are some of the best ways of learning German online.
- Youtube – Believe it or not, Youtube can be an excellent platform for learning a language. Check out Learn German – Deutsch für Euch, an easy to follow series which brilliantly covers the basics, and beyond. The best part about Youtube content? It’s completely free.
- Duolingo – One of the best language learning apps on the market, Duolingo will provide a firm baseline for beginners. It will have you quickly master the basics, from which you can progress up the ‘language tree’ and gradually increase the difficulty.
- Babbel – This app is particularly good for improving your spoken language skills as it has built-in speech recognition. Babbel also teaches you new vocabulary and phrases through the use of images, texts, and sounds recordings.
- Yabla – Yabla is an on-demand video streaming platform. All videos feature authentic, native speakers of German, and are fully subtitled. There is also a slow play option to help make sure that you take everything in. With access to a growing library of over 2000 videos, Yabla definitely offers one of the more entertaining ways of learning German.
- Spotify – Spotify has an impressive library of audio language learning. Check out Coffee Break German for relaxing yet educational lessons to help you with your German.
Common German phrases
While you’re here, why not get a bit of a head start on your German-speaking?
We’ll start with some basic words, then a few common phrases, and finally some idioms. German’s love their idioms, and knowing one or two of them is sure to dazzle German and non-German people alike.
- Hallo – Hello
- Danke – Thank you
- Tschüss – Goodbye
- Ja – Yes
- Nein – No
- Liebe – Love
- Glück – Happiness
- Hund – Dog
- Lächeln – Smile
- Guten Tag – Hello
- Guten Morgen – Good morning
- Guten Abend – Good afternoon
- Auf Wiedersehen – Goodbye
- Ich heiße… (ß is pronounced ‘ss’) – My name is…
- Wie heißen Sie? – What’s your name?
- Ich bin Brite – I am British
- Woher kommen Sie? – Where are you from?
- Kann ich Sie etwas fragen? – Can I ask you a question?
- Ich verstehe das nicht – I don’t understand
(Note that these idioms have literal English translations that are different to their meaning. For example, the German idiom ‘Ich habe Schwein gehabt‘ means ‘I’ve had a stroke of luck’, but the literal translation is ‘I’ve had a pig’!)
- Die Daumen drücken – Keep your fingers crossed
- Ein Fisch auf dem Trockenen – A fish out of water
- Sich zum Affen machen – Make a fool of yourself
- Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen – To kill two birds with one stone
- Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung setzen – To move heaven and earth
- Den Nagel auf den Kopf treffen – To hit the nail on the head
- Wie seine Westentasche kennen – To know like the back of one’s hand
- Man soll den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben – Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
- Klar wie Kloßbrühe – Crystal clear
- Ein Ohr abkauen – To talk someone’s ear off
Integration courses, which are mandatory for some, are an excellent way of gaining a firm foothold in Germany.
There are, however, a multitude of other ways of learning the German language, and there are countless resources available to become familiar with German society.
German is a beautiful language and is indicative of fascinating culture, so stick with it! The rewards will be endless.