Learning German

Learners in German language lesson
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If you wish to work in Germany, it is important to speak German. This section will provide you with information on where you can learn German.

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Integration courses

You can learn German in an integration course. Each integration course consists of two parts – a language course and an orientation course. An integration course has a total of 660 teaching hours.

Part 1 – the language course – is usually of 600 hours’ duration. In this course, you will speak about important topics such as work and careers, health, leisure time and social contacts.

Following the language course, you will then attend the orientation course. This is of 60 hours’ duration. The orientation course provides you with information on the history and culture of Germany and on the German legal system.

Integration courses take place in the morning and afternoon. There are, however, also courses which are held only in the afternoon or in the evening. This means that you can attend these courses even if you are working.

Special integration courses

Alongside the general integration courses, there are also courses for special groups or topics. Literacy integration course – for persons who are unable to read and write or who have very low levels of literacy.

  • Integration course for women – courses which are taught by female teachers.
  • Integration course for parents – for immigrants with one or more children. Participants in such courses are also given an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the nursery schools and schools attended by their children.
  • Integration course for young adults – for persons aged up to 27. Course contents include institutes providing vocational training, vocational schools and possible jobs.
  • Support course – for immigrants who have already lived in Germany for a longer period of time but who have not learned German thus far.
  • Intensive course – for immigrants who find it particularly easy to learn languages. This course quickly leads to an examination and the chance to gain a certificate.

Rules of participation for the integration course

Who is permitted to take part?

If you are from a third country, i.e. not from Germany or a member state of the European Union, you may only take part in an integration course if you are permanently resident in Germany. This applies if you have received a residence permit/visa for the first time after January 2005 for the following reasons.

  • As an employee or self-employed person
  • For the purpose of family reunification
  • Following the granting of asylum or recognition of refugee status in accordance with the Geneva Convention on Refugees
  • As a result of a decision taken by the primary level federal state authorities for humanitarian reasons

You may also take part in an integration course if you are able to demonstrate that you were resident in another EU country for a period of at least 5 years. Ethnic German resettlers are also permitted to take part. Participation is free of charge for this particular group.

The following are not permitted to participate.

  • Children and young people attending school in Germany
  • Persons who already speak German to a sufficient level (although it is possible for such persons to take part in an orientation course)
  • German nationals and EU citizens

German nationals and EU citizens who do not yet speak enough German may take part in an integration course. They will, however, need to make an application in order to do so.

Who has to take part in an integration course?

You must take part in an integration course if:

  • you are in receipt of “Class II” unemployment benefits;
  • you are particularly in need of integration;
  • you are unable to communicate in German to a sufficient level.

Who does not need to participate in an integration course?

  • Those undergoing professional or vocational training in Germany
  • Those participating in continuing or advanced training
  • If you are, for example, ill and are unable to take part in the course.

How do I obtain a place on an integration course?

  • Migrants with residence permits issued from2005 onwards can obtain an entitlement to participate in an integration course from the Aliens Department in the city, town or district in which they reside.
  • Ethnic German resettlers obtain their entitlement to participate in an integration course from the Federal Office of Administration in Friedland directly upon entry to the country.
  • Migrants with residence permits issued prior to 2005, EU citizens and German nationals will need to submit an application. The application form is available for download from www.bamf.de or from the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. The completed application form should be returned to your Regional Office of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
  • Which Regional Office is responsible in your case? This information is available from the WebGIS information system.
  • Once you have received permission to participate in an integration course, you may select an integration course provider, i.e. a school at which to learn German. Such a provider can also be found with the help of WebGIS.
    The local Migration Advisory Centres will also assist you. The course should not begin later than 3 months after your registration.

 

How much does an integration course cost?

An integration course costs a participant €1.20 per teaching hour (45 minutes). Participants who registered before 1 July 2012 will pay €1 per teaching hour. The remaining costs are paid by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. The total cost of a general integration course is €792 (€660 if registration took place before 1 July 2012). This fee may be paid in instalments.

When do you not normally need to pay anything for the integration course?

If you are:

  • in receipt of “Class II” unemployment benefits or welfare benefits or
  • are in a difficult financial situation personally.

You must, however, submit an application before the course begins. The application should be returned to your Regional Office of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Visit the WebGIS information system for more details.

Courses for occupationally related German

In addition to the integration course, there are also occupationally related German courses. These courses combine German teaching with professional or vocational training.

You can find more information on voacational language courses on the website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

German course provision for children and young people

A range of provision is in place to help children and young people learn German.

Such provision begins as early as nursery school. What kind of courses are these? How long do the courses last? This varies considerably. Each federal state has its own rules. Information is available at the nursery school attended by your child or from a Migration Advisory Centre.

A language test is conducted before your child starts school. Children are normally aged between 4 and 5½ when these tests are carried out. The test makes it possible to see whether your child can speak enough German or if he or she needs support to learn German before starting school. In some federal states, children who do not yet speak enough German must take part in this support provision.

Support for learning German is also available at the school itself. Children and young people who arrive in Germany when they are already of school age often attend special language learning classes. In some federal states, there is additional teaching in the child’s native language, for example in Turkish, Spanish, Polish, Arabic and other languages. It is frequently the case that a child can also learn his or her native language as a school subject. In addition, Germany has approximately 600 bilingual schools. Your local education authority or the school which your child attends will be able to inform you of the provision that is in place. The local Migration Advisory Centres will also be able to help.


Information on the provision available in the federal state in which you live is available on the website of the relevant State Ministry of Schools, Education and Young People (Ministry of Cultural Affairs). Further German language learning courses both in Germany and abroad are offered by the Goethe Institute or the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).