Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
Germany’s position as one of the most influential EU countries is a stable one. The President of the United States named it the key country in the prevention of further European financial crisis, furthermore it continues to enjoy the respect of its European peers on matters financial and economic. Many Brits have found their business leads them to Germany for this very reason.
Working in Germany does not necessarily require knowledge of German but learning even the basics of the language can help individuals and their businesses create stronger working relationships abroad. Speaking German rather than English demonstrates a greater interest and respect for Germany as both a business partner and cultural entity.
The good news is that German isn't the most difficult language in the world to learn, it just seems like it. The grammar is atrocious to an English speaker, everything seems the wrong way round. But if I can do it then so can you. Going on a short course before you leave will help you with all that paperwork and more importantly getting a beer or two.
Of course the preferred language of business these days is English, but you will find it almost impossible to find work without speaking the lingo and everyone I have spoken to who has spent time in Germany has said how important at least some knowledge of German is.
Remember to look for German as a foreign language (Deutsch als Fremdsprache) lessons.
One of the easiest ways to start learning German is to take a language course before you move abroad. If you can learn German before you depart for Frankfurt or wherever you are headed to then you will be able to use your language skills immediately rather than stumble through the first few months of your work with broken German.
Once you are in Germany, there are German-run cultural institutes which offer language courses. One of the most famous and well thought of German institutes is the 'Goethe-Institute', not the cheapest by any means but they are well regarded and have stood the test of time.
Language schools (Sprachschule) - there are many language schools in Germany from the big players like Berlitz to the smaller local schools who generally advertise in the local paper. It's best to ask other people for a recommendation.
Adult Educatiosn Centres (Volkshochschule / VHS) - you can pick up a list of their courses at most libraries.
Private teachers - have a look in your free papers and there are usually one or two people offering private lessons (Privat Unterricht).
Things you can do for yourself
Learning any language takes time, so managing your own learning experience is important. Get the most out of your language study by looking at it as something to be approached from many different angles. Grammar books and simple language conversations conducted in the classroom can be supplemented by outside study and different language experiences. For example watching a German film with subtitles can help you make connections between the German lessons you have in class and how that language is used in a colloquial context.
Finding a language partner (Sprachpartner(in)) is a great way of practising your German - offer to do a swapsy - you speak German and they correct you and they speak English and you correct them. You need to get on well together though. If you want to offer English as a swap, contact me on the Learn English Network. I am often asked about language partners.
Take advantage of any and all extracurricular programmes set up by your school. If they coordinate language partners or conversation groups that you can attend, then attend them. Any organised cultural activity will give you a greater sense of how German is used day to day and of traditional German life and cultural celebrations.
Remember that your language instructor is there to support you. If they have office hours or study sessions, it is important to attend. Ask questions about the things you are struggling with and, if you are a quick learner, ask about additional work. Making the most of your tutorial time can help with coursework and will help you develop an understanding of the language more quickly. Many instructors complain that students don’t take advantage of their office hours and study sessions, wasting the instructors time with unused learning opportunities.
In terms of German courses, schools provide excellent instruction, making it easier to really get a grasp of the language before you leave. All you need to do is put in the research to find the school that best fits your needs and then make sure that you take full advantage of all the available learning opportunities while you are there.
If you are on a tight budget, why not try to meet some real Germans in a virtual world? Second Life and other virtual worlds are great educational tools, and if you are patient (sometimes the tech is a bit wonky), it's a great way of meeting people and practising any language. In Second Life here's even a chance to visit 1920s Berlin to learn. If you need help finding your way around contact me in the group, or on the Learn English Network.