In this post, we answer some questions you may have about the Integration Course Germany offers to migrants and refugees.
As a non-German spouse of a German, I was offered a place in an Integration Course when I registered in Germany. The course is an initiative of BAMF (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge – Federal Office for Migration and Refugees), who pay for half the course costs (we will get to costs soon).
Here are some potential questions you may have, and my best answers.
Are only spouses of Germans offered a place in the course?
No. I was the only one in my class who had a German spouse.
Other students were spouses of foreigners already working in Germany. Other students came to German to find work and better opportunities, but need to learn German first.
What did you do / learn in an intergration course?
The first step is to learn the language of the country. There are language levels used to establish your German knowledge:
- A1 : Basic, introductory German
- A2 : Basic, bit more conversational German and more grammar
- B1 : Intermediate, a stronger emphasis on grammar, writing and conversations
The language levels continue on to B2, C1 and C2. But those are beyond the scope of the integration course in Germany.
I had previous German knowledge so I entered the class at a B1 level, but most of my class had been together since A1.
Learn about Life in Germany
The second step is to do a Life in Germany course (orientation course). This course aims to help you understand how things work in Germany, why Germans are the way they are, and important festivals and traditions. The course has three overarching themes:
- Politics: basic rights you have in the country, political parties, the voting system
- History: WWII and associated leadership, the separation and reunification of East and West Germany
- Life in Germany: equal treatment of male and female and diverse, common stereotypes, religion, traditions
How long was the course?
Because I was able to skip A1 and A2, this meant I skipped months of those courses.
My B1 course was for 2 months. At my school, each of the A1 and A2 courses lasted 2 months as well.
My orientation course was 1 month.
Therefore, if you are at a beginners level in German, the integration course can take you 7 months, with no breaks.
Also note, there was a register taken every day. For every lesson missed, an excuse note was needed and submitted to the school.
Where did you do the course?
I did my course through Anglo-German Insititute (AGI). If you are in Stuttgart, or close enough to come into town every day (when ‘in presence’ classes are allowed again), I highly recommend AGI.
AGI is a language school that also offers integration courses. My experience with the school and the teachers has been phenomenal and I plan on doing my B2 course with them too.
Was the integration course expensive?
As said before, BAMF pays for half of the course. The costs will likely vary with schools and locations.
We were told that if all exams are passed within 2 years of starting the process, half of what we paid will be paid back to us.
This essentially means that BAMF would have paid for 75 % of course costs, once the process ends.
Do you have to write exams?
Yes. I had two language exams – one for my school, and one for BAMF. The language exam is called Deutsch-Test für Zuwanderer (DTZ) and has three parts to it:
- Listening and reading (Hören und Lesen): all multiple-choice questions
- Writing (Schreiben): one letter/email is written – two topics are given and one is chosen
- Speaking (Sprechen): the most important part of the exam, paired with a partner known or unknown (mine was unknown but some people in my class were paired together)
The oral exam also has three parts to it: (1) introducing yourself (Vorstellung), (2) describing a picture given to you (Bild Beschreibung), (3) planning something (the topic is given to you) with your partner (etwas planen).
I watched a lot of YouTube videos on the DTZ exam – Brief schreiben, Bild Beschreibung, and etwas planen. They give you topics and things to say.
There is also a Life in Germany exam for the orientation course for BAMF. There are 300 potential questions and the exam asks 33 of them, all are multiple-choice questions.
This is also the test you need to pass in order to become a German citizen (need a minimum of 17 / 33). There are apps you can download to practice the questions, and of course, YouTube videos to watch.
Where were your classmates from?
In my language couse, it was a great mix of people from:
- South Africa (me, obviously)
- Mexico (non-German spouse works here)
- Turkmenistan (non-German spouse works here)
- India (non-German spouses work here)
- Turkey (more than half my language course and half of my orientation course were from Turkey)
In my orientation course, there were also people from Tunisia and Indonesia. It was interesting to learn a bit more about the other countries, when comparisons were made to Germany and Germans.
Why take the course?
Honestly, why not? It’s a chance to learn the language (seriously, do this) at a discounted rate. It’s a chance to meet new people. Your group could be the first group of friends you make in Germany.
My thoughts on the course
When I first heard about the course, I won’t lie, I was in two minds about it.
One part of me was like, “What the heck? Why are they assuming we foreigners can’t integrate? Besides, it’s more that Germans are the unfriendly sort”.
The other part of me was so ready to learn the language and I was happy to have the opportunity to do it with the help of the state. Also, let’s be honest, I am not the type of person to have people speak for me for the rest of my life.
The B1 course is no joke. It’s a lot of work, but so worth it. The orientation course was interesting at points and utterly boring at other points. But I loved meeting the people from my class and learning about their home countries.
It may be a weird thing to offer people entering Germany when you first hear about it, but I think it’s a great initiative. It’s not so much as a forced integration into the society here, but acts more to bridge and build understanding about German, Germans, and Germany.
If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. Otherwise, find us on our social medias or pop us an email.
Let us know if you have any thoughts on the integration course Germany offers. Would you take the course if you were given the opportunity? Have you taken the course; and if yes, what did you think of it?