February 2009 issue

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Germany’s consolidation

While 2008 brought a growth in student numbers for many German language schools, industry sources remain cautious in their forecasts of this year’s performance because of the global credit crunch. Gillian Evans reports.

For many German language schools, 2008 proved to be a year of consolidation. GLS Sprachenzentrum in Berlin experienced a 10 per cent increase in adult enrolments in 2008 compared with 2007, although their junior summer camp numbers remained the same, while Astur in Fulda also experienced a 10 per cent hike in student numbers in 2008 after an eight per cent increase in 2007. Eurasia Institute in Berlin achieved a 30 per cent increase in numbers last year, although that was after a decrease in 2007 owing to visa difficulties.

The reasons behind these successes remain diverse, with Astur’s Brigitte Walther-Ruiz venturing that their good performance was down to “the good publicity of the football world cup in 2006 and the good quality of language courses in Germany”. Meanwhile, at the Anglo German Institute in Stuttgart, Head of German Language, Christine Heber, says their “very successful summer season” in 2008 was down to the growth in tourism in their city. “We think that the increasing number of foreign visitors to Stuttgart shows that Stuttgart has become more and more a centre of interest for travellers and language learners in Germany,” she says.

But not all schools experienced growth in 2008. Inadequate web advertising and website visibility are reasons given by Magda Adamczyk at Alpha Heidelberg for a drop in student numbers in 2008 compared with the previous year. “I put down the negative performance in 2008 to ineffective [advertising] on the Internet, a change of the website/server and a general bad situation in the market, as well as difficulties resulting from visa issuance,” she says. “As we are now working on better visibility on the Internet and developing new contacts, we definitely hope for a considerable increase in the number of students in the year 2009.”

At Eurocentres, Gaby Billing reports static numbers in 2007 and 2008. She says their Swiss students, which make up the largest single nationality at their German schools, dropped because of the “booming economy [and therefore] less need for qualifications” but that this was made up by increases in enrolments from Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Other schools also report a growing diversity among students including Alpha Aktiv where top student nationalities included Israel, Tunisia, Poland, Japan and Brazil last year.

In a bid to continue to expand their reach into other world regions, many German language schools have been refining their course offerings. Billing reports of a trend in the market towards longer courses, semester and year-long programmes, while Walther-Ruiz notes growing interest in camp-type programmes, which has led the school to offer more residential courses.  

Meanwhile, Dorothee Robrecht at GLS Sprachenzentrum observes, “Demand has grown for courses finishing with an official certificate like ZD Zertifikat Deutsch or Goethe B2, etc. So we are offering four-week preparatory courses, with the respective exam taking place in week five.”

There have also been further developments in the recreational language learning sector with the Anglo German Institute launching a course for the more mature learner. “We are offering a new German language course type for 50+ [year old] students, which combines language study and cultural activities. We have increasingly received enquiries from people in this age category.”

While individual schools are working to market themselves overseas, what is clearly missing in the market is a unified voice for the German language teaching industry. Many in the industry support the development of a school association. “Language schools need an association to be represented at international meetings [and] fairs, [and] to have guidelines about the quality of the courses,” says Walther-Ruiz, while Robrecht underlines the valuable lobbying role that such a group can play. “A national association could be helpful to express common interests, for example, in the visa question: authorities that issue visas or define the respective policies may be more inclined to listen to an association than to a single school,“ she says.

Credit crunch

As people the world over tighten their belts as the grim reality of the global credit crunch sets in, language schools in Germany remain understandably cautious in their forecasts of the coming year. At the end of last year, some schools had already felt the effects of the downturn in the global economy. Andrew Geddes at Eurasia Institute in Berlin reports, “One booking for a short-term research course programme from Kazakhstan decreased by almost 50 per cent after the credit crisis” in the last quarter of 2008. But he does not believe this is the start of a landslide in demand for German courses, and is confident that they will make a swift recovery, “especially since Germany is one of the most cost-effective places in the world to take university studies,” he says.

Katja Wostradowski at the Goethe Institut says that previous recessions have resulted in a drop in demand for certain types of courses.

“The past has shown, that companies – especially for one-to-one tuition and tailored courses – in such times firstly cut down on language courses; on the other hand, people see that learning a language is a major benefit when applying for jobs,” she relates.

However, marketing is likely to play a pivotal role. “[The current economic situation] will be taken into account for our future marketing activities,” says Christine Heber at the Anglo German Institute. “[We] will continue to emphasise our very good price-performance ratio in the future.”

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.





English Australia  
Perth Education


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Malta Tourism
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English Australia  

Bond University
Curtin University
La Trobe University
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Pacific Gateway
      University of
University of
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Berlitz Canada  
Bodwell College  
Camber College  
English Bay
Global Village 
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Richmond School
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Vancouver English

      Language Training

Ardmore Language
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Bell International
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Camp Beaumont  
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LAL Language
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Malvern House
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Northumbria School
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Queen Ethelburga's
RLI Language
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Study Group  
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Twin Group  
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University of
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Wimbledon School
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      Université de
Alliance Française
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French in
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Carl Duisberg
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F+U Academy  
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International House
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Centre of English

Kai Japanese
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EC English
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inlingua Malta  

EAC Language
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Cape Studies  
EC Cape Town  
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Good Hope
inlingua Language
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Interlink School
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International House
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LAL Cape Town  
      Teaching Centre  
Shane Global
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South African
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International House
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EF Language
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Zoni Language
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