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February 2006 issue

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Germany's targets

After a couple of difficult years with no real growth in the marketplace, many German language providers have focused on developing targeted language courses to attract new student nationalities. Gillian Evans reports.

The prospect of the expansion of the European Union (EU) in 2004 was awaited with anticipation by language schools in Germany, eager to boost flagging student numbers. Germany';s position in the heart of Europe makes it a convenient language learning destination for those in Central and Eastern Europe and German is an important second foreign language in the region, as Martin Spitta from Eloquia in Frankfurt-am-Main highlights. "The importance [of the German language] should continue growing as Eastern European governments and companies start establishing commercial contacts with German companies," he says.

However, Spitta admits that they, like most other language providers in Germany, have experienced "no direct impact" on enrolment figures from the new EU accession countries so far, and the main reason for this has been the high cost of overseas language learning. Indeed, the downside of EU membership for many new member states has been price hikes at home affecting consumer spending. This, according to Ulrich Schmidt at Friedlaender Schule in Berlin, had a particularly negative impact on their 2004 student numbers, which dropped by 20 per cent. He relates, "[Before the EU expansion] we had between 50 per cent and 70 per cent Polish students in the summer. In 2004, Polish students only made up 10 per cent [of our intake]. Polish students especially didn';t spend so much money in 2004 on summer courses because prices [in Poland] increased after May 2004."

Another contributory factor towards the difficult year in 2004 for Friedlaender Schule was a drop in government funding for German language courses for immigrants. However, following the introduction of the new immigration law last year, funding has been increased and Schmidt is confident that this will boost student numbers in the future, although profit margins may be low. "The government only pays a very small amount of money per student," he states.

Other schools less reliant on these students fared a little better in 2004, registering a slight rise in enrolments. "Student numbers have been increasing steadily since 2003," recounts Andrea Weik, Director of the Carl Duisberg Centren in Berlin. "2003 was a very weak year, [whereas] in 2004 we welcomed students from Russia, Japan, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, the USA, Canada, Korea and other countries." This diversification of nationalities continued in 2005, with enrolments up owing to an increase in Japanese and Korean students and school groups from Italy. Nevertheless, Weik estimates that their total numbers have only grown by between five and 10 per cent since 2003.

At Eloquia, Spitta talks of a minimal growth. "In 2004 we saw student numbers increase by 3.4 per cent, which although significantly lower than the [annual] increases registered at the end of the last millennium, was still positive," he asserts. But 2005 yielded a negative performance with a two per cent dip in enrolments, which Spitta puts down to reduced consumer and corporate spending.

This tightening of the purse strings has hit the premium sector hard. Cornelia Jumpertz-Schwab at Institut Matura in Donaueschingen, which specialises in summer courses for over-50 year olds, relates that they had to cancel all their summer programmes last year owing to "too few registrations". The problems, she says, arose because of difficulties in reaching a niche target group, coupled with a reduction in consumer spending. "Prices [at Institut Matura] are higher than in other schools because we only take eight students on a course and the cultural and tourist programme is comprehensive and included in the price," she says.

For the coming year, many German language schools are more upbeat in their forecasts, with growth rates of up to 15 per cent hoped for. However, the key to success seems to be in developing targeted courses and special offers. Weik reports that their new school groups programme is particularly popular with Italians, and a new high school student course has generated considerable interest from China.

One school that completely reinvented itself in 2004 is DFSR in Heppenheim. Revamped as the European Hotel Academy, it now offers language courses specifically designed for students who want to work in the hospitality sector in an EU-member country. "The trend towards working programmes in this industry is very clear so we offer language and trade skills courses with a job guaranteed," states the school';s Director, Juliet Cassells.


The visa wall

Many German language schools are looking to increase their promotional activities to reach new markets in the coming year. Ulrich Schimdt at Friedlaender Schule in Berlin reports that they are targeting Japan, Turkey, Poland, the USA and Arab countries, and are using a range of recruitment methods including agents.

Axel Freudenfeld at Did Deutsch-Institut says their main focus for recruitment remains agents combined with their website, while Cornelia Jumpertz-Schwab at Institut Matura says they are advertising in publications specifically targeted at the older generation and are only just starting to work with agents.

But, as in most other language teaching countries, visa issuance problems are blocking growth from some student source countries. According to Freudenfeld, visa difficulties are commonly experienced by prospective students from Russia, China and many other non-EU countries, while Schmidt highlights Turkey, Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus as the ones most likely to encounter problems. "Very often the embassies refuse the visas, in general without comment," says Schmidt. "The only reason is that [visa officials] do not believe in the [student';s] reason for travel."

Alluding to the Schengen agreement, which permits all nationals from participating countries to move freely between other member countries, Schmidt goes as far as to say, "The Berlin Wall has been replaced by the Schengen Wall!"

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.

Name

Company
Country
Telephone

Email



ASSOCIATIONS/
GROUPS
Education New
      Zealand Trust
Eltasa
English Australia

TOURIST BOARDS
Malta Tourism
      Authority

WORKSHOPS
Alphe Agent
      Workshops 

SERVICES
Language Travel
      Phonecard 

AUSTRALIA
English Australia

AUSTRIA
Cultura Wien

CANADA
Académie des
      langues de Trois
      -Pistoles
Algonquin and
      Lakeshore Catholic
      District School Board
Bodwell College
Bow Valley College
Canadian
      International
      Student Services
Cowichan Valley
      School District # 79
Delta School District
Fraser Cascade -
      School District # 78
Ottawa International
      Student Programmes
      (OISP)
Richmond School
      District # 38
University of Calgary
West Vancouver
      School District # 45

ENGLAND
Aspect (Australia,
      Canada, England,
      France, Germany,
      Ireland, Malta, New
      Zealand, Scotland,
      South Africa, Spain,
      USA)
Bell International
Eastbourne School
      of English
LAL Language and
      Leisure (England,
      Malta, South Africa,
      USA)
Langbourne College
Leeds English
      Language School
Malvern House
Oxford Brookes
      University
Queen Ethelburga's
      College
Salisbury School of
      English
St Giles Colleges
      (UK, USA)
St John's Wood
      School of English
Study Group
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, New Zealand,
      South Africa,
      Spain, USA)
University of
      Sheffield

FRANCE
Centre d'Etudes des
      Langues de Saint-
      Malo
ELFE
Institut Français Riéra
IS Aix-en-Provence
SILC - Séjours
      Linguistiques
      (England, France,
      Spain)
Université de
      Provence

GERMANY
F+U Academy
      (Austria, Germany,
      Russia)
Lichtenberg Kolleg
      E.V.
Prolog- International
      House Berlin

IRELAND
High Schools
      International (HSI)
      (England, Australia,
      Canada, Ireland,
      USA)

ITALY
Babilonia
Est Ovest
Istituto Linguistico
      Mediterraneo

MALTA
EC English
      Language Centre
      (England, Malta)
inlingua Malta
Malta Tourism
      Authority

NEW ZEALAND
Education New
      Zealand Trust

RUSSIA
Liden & Denz
      Language Centre

SOUTH AFRICA
Cape Studies -
      Pacific Gateway
      Study Group
Eurocentres Cape
      Town
Geos Cape Town
      Language  Centre
Good Hope Studies 
inlingua Language
      Training Centre
      Cape Town
Interlink School of
      Languages
International House -
      Durban
Jeffrey's Bay
      Language Centre
LAL Cape Town
LAL Durban
Shane Global
      Language Centres -
      Cape Town

SPAIN
Estudio Sampere
      (Ecuador, Spain)
Kings College
      International
      (England, Spain)

SWITZERLAND
EF Language
      Colleges Ltd
      (Australia, Canada,
      China, Ecuador,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, Malta, New
      Zealand, Russia,
      Scotland, Spain,
      USA)
Eurocentres
      International
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Italy,
      Japan, New Zealand,
      Russia, Spain,
      Switzerland, USA)

USA
American Language
      Communication
      Center
Kaplan Educational
      Centers (Canada,
      England, USA)
Zoni Language
      Centers

WALES
CELTiC (Schools)
Ltd