December 2012 issue

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German in Austria and Switzerland

For those considering learning German abroad, the charming Alpine cultures of Austria and Switzerland have a certain appeal, as Nicola Hancox finds out.

Bordering Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovenia and Italy to the south, Hungary and Slovakia to the east and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Austria is, quite literally, at the very heart of Europe. With a population just over eight million, German is its official language and a number of established language centres can facilitate those looking to immerse themselves in the country’s unique culture and history.

Berlitz Austria has eight centres in Vienna, Graz, Salzburg, Linz and Klagenfurt. Established in 1906, Karin Zipfinger relates that programming has adapted to “the changing needs of students as well as the changes in the language”.

A German summer camp in Leibnitz is the most recent programme addition, says Zipfinger. Children take German lessons in the morning and enjoy a sports programme packed with golf, tennis and horseback riding in the afternoon. Courses are typically two weeks long and cater for children aged between 10 and 16 years.

With more than 20 years of language teaching experience, ActiLingua prides itself on its location in Vienna, the Austrian capital. Its attractive locale, according to Michaela Pöschl, is what makes it differ from other language schools in German-speaking destinations. “The city is a unique blend of history and modernity with culture and tradition. It is a city that can cater to almost every taste,” she claims.

As well as standard and intensive programmes, the school provides individual tuition and summer courses for teenagers aged between 12 and 19 years. German plus work experience – where students are placed with an Austrian company for up to a year to help build their language proficiency – and German plus music are among options available. With Austria being famous for its composers including Mozart and Schubert, the music studies segment of the German plus music course comprises one individual instrumental music or vocal lesson per week and one supplementary theoretical music class per week at the Vienna Conservatory.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Cultura Wein is another language school based in Vienna. According to the school’s Renate Schmid, the city has all the advantages of a big city with none of the “big city” disadvantages. “Vienna is one of the safest cities in Europe,” she asserts, adding that it was ranked the most liveable city in the Mercer Quality of Living Survey in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The school offers a number of intensive packages. Schmid explains, “While it was usual at the beginning of the nineties to attend an intensive German course for at least 10 weeks, more and more participants can only stay two-to-three weeks to learn German,” she observes.

Spotting potential in the Austrian language teaching market, German-owned did deutsch-institut recently unveiled plans to launch a course for juniors in Vienna next year. “This metropolis on the Danube guarantees an unforgettable language learning experience in every way,” exudes Managing Director, Patrick Semidei. “Our centre organisers, director of studies, as well as many of our teachers will be ‘imported’ from Germany,” he outlines. Students enrolled on the summer residence course have a choice of either four-bed or two-bed room options with en suite facilities. Beginner, standard and intensive German courses will be available.

Another German language teaching country that benefits from its idyllic locale is Switzerland. Altitude Camps, a personalised summer/winter camp operator in the picturesque resort of Verbier, welcomes children between the ages of eight and 16 years to learn English, French, Spanish or German. According to the company’s Laura Turner, children have the opportunity to combine language learning with a mixture of activities that make the most of the camp’s mountain surrounds. “Lessons focus on vocabulary, conversation and grammar, and for higher levels we also focus on reading and writing,” reflects Turner. With a maximum of 50 children on camp, Turner asserts the importance of getting the culture and nationality mix right.

Because of Austria’s close proximity to Central and Eastern Europe, Schmid at Cultura Wein says a large quota of students are recruited from Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia and the Ukraine. “In 2012, we have seen a rise in numbers of students from ex-Yugoslavia because visas have been abolished,” she adds.

And at Berlitz, the biggest source markets are also the CEE countries, notes Zipfinger, who expects more students in the future due to Vienna’s close proximity to the rest of Europe. Pöschl, meanwhile, documents growing interest from the 10 newest EU countries at Actilingua, especially the Czech Republic (accounting for eight per cent) and Poland (seven per cent). She adds that the eurozone crisis could even work to their advantage with students realising the benefit of improving their German proficiency for the job market. “Learning German serves as a solid foundation for a successful future,” she says.

A selection of executive German courses in Austria and Switzerland

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English Australia  
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University of Essex - International Academy  
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IALC International  
Cambridge Esol  
TOEFL Educational Testing Service  
A Door To Italy  
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Zoni Language Centers
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Malta Tourism Authority  
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Pay to Study/FELCA  
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EF International Language Centers  
Malta Tourism Authority  
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Ross School (The)  
Zoni Language Centers  

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