Discover how and where to learn German in Austria with this helpful guide and you’ll soon be speaking the local lingo and smoothing your transition.
As an expat, trying to learn German in Austria can go a long way to helping you settle into local life, not to mention improving your job prospects in the country. Fortunately, attempting to learn German in Austria doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, aside from Germany, this is probably the best place to do it, as the country offers plenty of language schools. And, because German is the official language, you will hear it everywhere – and let’s face it, there’s no easier way to pick up a language than with total immersion.
This helpful guide explains exactly how to do it and covers the following topics:
- Why learn German in Austria?
- Learning German before moving to Austria
- Learning German in Austria
- Learn German online
- Learn German on a computer or smartphone app
- Learning German outside the classroom
- Language learning for children in Austria
- Official language examinations and qualifications in Austria
- Useful resources
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Why learn German in Austria?
German is widely spoken in Austria, mainly because it is the official language. As such, expats who chose to learn German in Austria (or before they arrive) can enjoy a wealth of benefits. For example, being able to speak German will improve your job prospects because it is the main business language. In addition, you need it to study in Austria because it is the main language of instruction in most local schools and universities. Of course, German will also help with social integration and making friends with locals, as well as overcoming potential difficulties and awkward embarrassments.
Furthermore, German is a rather useful language to learn. After all, around 130 million people worldwide speak German as their mother tongue. In fact, it is the most widely spoken native language in the EU and the official language in seven countries.
Additionally, for English speakers, German can be quite easy and quick to learn. This is because they are both Germanic languages. In fact, the United States Foreign Service Institute says that English speakers can learn German in 750 hours (or 30 weeks). As such, German would be far quicker to learn than say, Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic.
Learning German before moving to Austria
While it is possible to learn German in Austria, it can be useful to learn the language before you move. This is because having a basic understanding of German will make the move far less daunting. Of course, it will help you a lot during your first few weeks, too.
International German-language schools
There are several international German-language schools that cater to expats trying to learn the language, and these schools might have locations in your home country; so it’s worth checking their websites to find out. This can make it easier for you to learn German before you move but continue to learn German in Austria. Here are a few schools you should know about:
- Goethe Institute – the leading international destination for German culture and language, with a location in Vienna and many other cities around the world
- Berlitz – a popular language school that specializes in German and many other languages and has offices around the world
Learning German in Austria
Of course, you can choose to learn German in Austria, after you arrive. In fact, this may be a better option as there are far more benefits. For example, you will likely have access to a wider choice of German courses and language schools. And, because everyone around you will be speaking German, you will be fully immersed in the language and have many opportunities to practice it yourself.
Language Schools in Austria
If you plan to learn German in Austria, there are plenty of schools for you to choose from. Although most of them offer a similar range of German courses, you may find that some are better for you due to different prices and locations. Nevertheless, here are a few of the most popular language schools in Austria:
- Actilingua Academy – one of Austria’s most popular language schools. As such, it has offices throughout the country and offers group and private classes for adults, holiday sessions, and intensive immersion courses.
- Deutsch in Osterreich – the name translates to ‘German in Austria’, so it is perfect if you do indeed plan to learn German in Austria. Run by the University of Klagenfurt, the school offers a range of evening classes, private and group courses, and even preps students for exams.
- ABC bildungzentrum – based in Vienna, the ABC Language Institute offers a range of German classes at different levels. It also specializes in day classes, German business language courses, and grammar courses.
- Internationales kulturinstitute – also in Vienna, this language school offers every German course you could need. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, you can find private and group classes that suit you. Furthermore, prices include books, certificates, and worksheets.
- Inlingua – another Viennese language school, Inlingua offers group and individual courses, as well as online classes. You can also take placement tests and learn other languages, too.
- University of Vienna Language School – part of one of Europe’s most prestigious universities, this language school offers academically-driven German courses in a university environment.
Government German lessons in Austria
The Austrian government offers a series of lessons and subsidies for migrants who want to learn German in Austria. However, some of these are only for migrants in specific circumstances, so you should check which programs you qualify for.
The City of Vienna offers Vienna language vouchers (Wiener Sprachgutscheine) that you can use at specific German language courses. Additionally, these are valid for 30 months, so you have plenty of time to use them and learn the language.
Similarly, the City of Vienna offers €300 worth of vouchers for arrivals who are not from the EU. To receive this, however, you need to prove that you have a family member living in Vienna and have an initial residence permit. For EU citizens, though, the government issues €150 worth of vouchers to learn German in Austria. You must also have a residence card to get these.
Learning German for free in Austria
Of course, if you prefer not to pay to learn German in Austria, there are a few options for free courses. The City of Vienna, for example, connects recent migrants with a few specific free courses for basic German. In addition, numerous institutions and organizations offer free German classes specifically for adults, children under 16, and women. Here are a few you can look into:
- VHS Basisbildungskurse – free German courses for adults
- Büchereien WienInterkulturelle (Vienna Libraries) – Vienna’s city libraries offer free conversational courses that are perfect for practicing your German
- Verein zur Integration von Zuwanderer (Association for the integration for Migrants) – the club offers free German courses at different levels
- Nachbarschaftszentren des Wiener Hilfswerks (Viennese District Neighborhood Centers) – find casual free German courses in your neighborhood
- PROSAProjekt Schule für Alle – access free German courses for people over 16
- Peregrina – this organization offers free German classes for women aged 16 and over
- Station Wien – find German courses for women
Learn German online
Whether you learn German in Austria or before you arrive, there are plenty of online courses and resources that can help. In fact, these are very useful because they can be done at your convenience. If you want to try online learning, here are a few places to start:
- Berlitz – access a range of resources, from bespoke bite-size lessons and interactive activities to videos and private one-to-one sessions with an instructor. In addition, Berlitz has classes for all levels and offers subsidies for job seekers, employees, and companies.
- smarterGerman – expertly-crafted online lessons tailored to your needs.
- Goethe Institute – find courses at all levels, access personal tutors, and try one-to-one learning, from €675.
- Deutschakademie – try free online German courses with over 20,000 vocabulary and grammar exercises plus messaging and a help forum.
- Deutsch Lernen – a website that offers great beginner’s resources, from word lists and exercises to verb and conjugations. Advanced students can also access a series of 24 useful lessons.
- italki – 1-to-1 lessons online and access to the italki global community of language learners.
- Babbel – a popular online language tool that offers one free beginner’s class. After that, you can pay €6.95/month to access six online courses that will teach you tenses, sentence structure, verbs, and culture.
- LanguaTalk – 1-to-1 online tuition with native speaking teachers.
- Deutsche Welle – whether you are just beginning to learn German or are fine-tuning your language skills, this site has it all. It’s also very easy to use – you can even print off the exercises if you want to do them online.
- BBC – this is a great website for free German lessons for beginners.
Other handy online German-learning resources
In addition to online language courses, there is also a selection of useful online resources to help you build your German vocabulary and skills. Here are a few to keep in mind:
Learn German with a computer or smartphone app
While there are many ways to learn German in Austria, you might prefer a more casual approach. If that is the case, then you may want to try an app. Although these might not offer as comprehensive a course, they can still be fun and a great way to begin learning.
This computer course and app offer a range of German courses. You can sign up for three months, 12 months, or lifetime access to keep your skills up to scratch. The extensive course is designed to fit your goals and offers pronunciation feedback, bite-size lessons, real-life scenarios, and life lessons. You can expect to pay €11/month (three-month course), €6/month (12-month course), or €130 (one-time payment for unlimited access).
Perhaps the most well-known app for languages, Duolingo is great for beginners. This is because it offers quick language lessons that are themed so that users can quickly learn vocabulary, sentence structure, and pronunciation.
Another complete computer-and-app course, Pimsleur offers a 360-degree German learning experience. In a period of 80 hours, you can learn phrases, vocabulary, and grammar while learning to speak, understand, and read German. You can purchase all five levels for €480, or just buy one at a time for €130.
Offering a sophisticated approach, the Fluenz computer or smartphone app is an easy way to learn German. The system breaks down German syntax and grammar in a way that is easy for English speakers to understand. The app offers five levels of practical, everyday German. You can expect to pay €160 to €320.
Here are a few more useful apps that you can use to learn German in Austria:
Learning German outside the classroom
As an expat, the best way to learn German in Austria might be outside the classroom. Since all locals speak German and use it in everyday life, you have a great opportunity to practice your German each day. If you are eager to expand your learning, here are a few ways to do so outside a formal setting:
- Find a local to meet up with and practice speaking German with
- Join a conversation club with other expats
- Watch German movies and series with subtitles to expand your vocabulary
- Listen to local music so you get used to hearing it
- Look for German practice groups on Meetup
- Join a German practice group on Facebook
- Find ways to interact with locals, whether they are your neighbors or shop owners
- If you have children, host playdates with locals and you will quickly pick up basic German
- Join a local sports club or society to practice your German
Language learning for children in Austria
Because it is the official language of Austria, local schools all use German as the primary language. Similarly, all international schools offer German classes. As such, if you have children in school in Austria, they will likely become quite fluent in German.
However, if you want to help them expand their knowledge of German, there are numerous other ways to do it. For example, you can encourage them to socialize with local children, watch films and shows in German with them, and work through beginner’s workbooks with them.
There are also a few places across Vienna and Austria that offer free German classes to minors. For example, Integrationshaus, Projekt Baju offers free classes in German for people aged 15 to 25.
Official language examinations and qualifications in Austria
The Österreichisches Sprachdiplom Deutsch (ÖSD) is the state testing and assessment system for German as a foreign or second language in Austria. If you learn German in Austria, you may need to take these exams at some point. The ÖSD exams test your ability to speak and understand German in everyday situations. Fortunately, the certification is also recognized around the world. The cost of these exams will depend on which level and type you take, but some language schools include this in their course costs.
Taking the ÖSD can be very useful, and in some cases, you may need to do it while you are in Austria. For example, if you apply to a university in the country, you will need to present your ÖSD certificate. You will also need to do so to gain citizenship or get family residence permits. In addition, the ÖSD can be helpful for finding a job in Austria and integrating into society.