There are many opportunities to learn German while you are still in your home country:
One starting point is the Goethe Institutes in your country. They offer German courses, language certification and examinations. The Goethe Institute also provides online German lessons and a wealth of information about Germany. These online courses give you flexibility in terms of where and when you study, and their high standard is well-established. Individual support is also available if needed. You have to pay for the Goethe Institutes’ German courses.
A free alternative is offered by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster. Here you will find many ways to learn German or improve your language skills: via e-learning at your computer, with videos, audio recordings and podcasts - or more traditionally, with worksheets which you can print out.
In addition, commercial language schools throughout Europe offer German courses.
If you are already in Germany, you can attend publicly subsidised integration courses. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge – BAMF) can allow you and your family members to attend an integration course if you and your family members do not yet speak German to an adequate level and there are places available on the course. However, you do not have a legal entitlement to attend an integration course.
The integration course consists of
- a German language course leading to Level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, with 600 to 900 hours of lessons, and
- an orientation course, with 100 hours of lessons. In the orientation course you will learn about the German legal system, culture and history.
The cost of the integration courses is partly funded by the state.
Information on the integration course and on admission can be found here.
The WebGis search tool provided by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees offers information about local integration course providers and the courses on offer (integration course venues).
If you already speak German at Level B1, you can attend vocational language courses. These courses help migrant jobseekers to integrate into the labour market. The vocational language courses build on the integration courses and take participants’ German language skills from Level B1 to Level C2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Special modules are also offered, such as modules designed for specific occupational groups in connection with the procedure for obtaining recognition of foreign professional qualifications or accessing a profession. Modules are also planned for people who do not manage to reach Level B1 after attending integration courses. The module designed to help you reach Level B2 is already available, and more modules will be added over time. Further information is available on the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
In principle, your nationality is irrelevant when it comes to attending a vocational language course. However, you must fulfil certain conditions to be eligible to attend. You have no legal entitlement to attend a vocational language course. These vocational language courses are free if you have no income or a low income.
FAQ Learning German
You can be given a certificate of eligibility (Teilnahmeberechtigung) for a vocational language course if
- you are registered as seeking a vocational training place, seeking employment or as being unemployed with the Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit), or if you are undertaking a pre-vocational training programme or assisted training, or
- you are receiving unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II), or
- you are required to reach a certain language level in the context of the recognition of your foreign professional qualifications or to be able to access a profession, or
- you are an apprentice.
The Employment Agencies and job centres can issue certificates of eligibility to their customers. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge) issues certificates of eligibility to people who are apprentices, or who are required to reach a certain language level in the context of the recognition of their foreign professional qualifications or to be able to access a profession.
Integration courses are publicly subsidised. In principle, the state meets half of the course costs, which are currently €3.90 per lesson. You have to pay a contribution of €1.95 per lesson. If you successfully complete the integration course within two years, you can claim back half of your contribution to the costs (this time limit begins when your certificate of eligibility to attend the course is issued). Participants who receive social benefits towards the cost of living, for example, can apply for an exemption from having to contribute to the costs.