November 2013 issue

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German plus activities

German language courses can be complemented by an activity programme that aims to showcase the very best in German custom and culture, as Nicola Hancox discovers.

“We are convinced that learning a language is not enough to understand the country where it is spoken. We aim to make our clients familiar with German customs and culture,” begins Joachim Graff from Sprachinstitut Treffpunkt in Bamberg.

While bona fide language plus culture (music, theatre, museum) or language plus activity programmes feature highly in language destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and the UK, few schools in Germany offer a course where the –cultural‘ component is a taught part of a language programme. But that isn‘t to say students do not request some type of cultural immersion as part of a standard or intensive German language course.

For example, at Sprachinstitut Treffpunkt, Graff explains that the school‘s standard German language course includes recreational activities at least three times a week. “Most of our clients want social and cultural activities included. For that reason the percentage of returning students is continuously growing [and was up by] 40 per cent this year,” he relates. Students can expect 20 hours of language tuition per week, plus six lessons concentrating on recreational/extra activities to practise newly acquired language skills.

In addition, students can experience the cultural assets of two major cities (Bamberg and Berlin) as part of the school‘s dual destination course. Its activity schedule includes a general orientation tour and visits to Bamberg Cathedral and Altenburg Castle, while the Berlin leg of the course juxtaposes modern and classic Berlin, with a museum night, a boat trip along the River Spree and a film night dedicated to Berlin cinematography.

Humboldt-Institut has year-round schools in Constance and Berlin (the latter school is scheduled to open in June 2014) and, as residential facilities, an – every day‘ activity programme is integral to the language learning process. “Since opening in 1977, we have run residential schools that offer 30 lessons a week, full board and an extensive leisure time/activity/cultural programme,” says Kim Kluckhohn, Head of Education and Marketing. He adds that a full immersion programme helps students pick up the language quickly and efficiently. “Moreover, it enhances the fun of learning and using a foreign language, and in a residential school you have lots of students with the same goal which is improving their language skills and using the language actively,” he continues.

Incorporated into the standard 30-lesson format is a daily leisure time programme, half-day excursion every Wednesday and a full-day excursion every Saturday, all of which are included in the package price. The after class activity complements much of the surrounding area (swimming in Lake Constance, trips to the theatre) but excursions to Stuttgart and Freiburg are also available. Kluckhohn adds that this format works extremely well for the school. “We have already welcomed students from more than 160 countries in this kind of programme,” he enthuses.

Cultural lessons are incorporated into provision at F+U Academy of Languages in Heidelberg, says Angela Queisser. “We decided to introduce them because beginners, especially, ask for this kind of course to learn the language very intensively.” Courses also comprise grammar and pronunciation lessons.

While subject matter is very much dependent on the needs of the group, content has developed in recent years to include subjects such as German current affairs, says Queisser. “Students can bring questions and suggest topics [for discussion],” she adds.

Asked how popular cultural programming is with an international audience, Queisser notes a high volume of interest from teenagers and 20-to-30 year olds. “The programmes are very popular, especially with our European (Spanish and Italian), Latin American and American students. Japanese students usually participate in all of our cultural programmes.” The school also specialises in cultures other than German, offering Japanese cooking and craft classes.

In tandem with their intensive language courses, F+U offers an à la carte course for those interested in specialising in disciplines such as music or sport. According to the school‘s website, these –special courses‘ are delivered in cooperation with local associations, groups or music schools. The school also intends to found an F+U choir.

Meanwhile, students are afforded the chance to get to know Heidelberg by throwing themselves into the cultural and leisure programme organised by the school. “Participation in these events is free, with the exception of charges for entrance fees or drinks,” vouches their website. Students can also enjoy a scenic boat ride along the Neckar or a bike trip along its banks, for example. nicolahancox@hothousemedia.com

A selection of German plus cultural activities courses

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English For Asia  

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Kai Japanese Language School  

Feltom (Via Malta Tourism Authority)  

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