The UK in Germany
Experten sind sich einig: je jünger man ist, umso besser lernt man eine Zweitsprache. DAGMAR TAYLOR hat drei Bildungseinrichtungen besucht, in denen Englisch Unterrichtssprache ist – vom Kindergarten zum Bachelor.
Schooling in English
Proficiency in English is important in today’s globalized world. Understanding how much easier it is to learn languages in childhood, more and more German-speaking parents would like their children to be educated in English — preferably from a very early age. Helpful, too, is an environment where they not only learn about the language, but can also use it in real-life situations.
English from the start
Almost every city in Germany has kindergartens where English is either the main language or is spoken in combination with German. Some offer full-time immersion, others regular weekly sessions. Many kindergartens have their own approach to teaching English, while others follow a system such as Montessori or the Helen Doron method.
Armin Ritschny, who is responsible for franchising the Helen Doron method in Bavaria and Baden-württemberg, explains how it works. “The lessons are built up around singing, dancing, playing games, activities, movement and lots of music,” he says. “The children are never bored. We never give negative feedback, only positive reinforcement. The mothertongue principle means that only English is spoken in the lesson. One lesson a week wouldn’t be enough. Children need daily contact with English, so our lessons are supported by CDS for listening to at home.”
Doron, a British linguist and educator based in Israel, founded the Helen Doron Educational Group more than 30 years
ago. She developed her own teaching approach, initially so that her children, growing up in Israel, would learn to speak English.
“Doron realized that children didn’t need translation. They need to learn English as they learn their mother tongue,” explains Ritschny.
There are more than 80 Helen Doron learning centres in Germany. The language programmes take place in the learning centres, which are run by experienced teachers. The same programmes are also offered by certified teachers in kindergartens or schools. The four basic principles of the Helen Doron method are repeated listening, positive reinforcement, small groups and fun learning.
Ritschny says the learners aren’t just small children: “We have every age group from three months old to 19 years old, beginner programmes and advanced learner programmes.”
English at school
British and international schools where the main language is English have a long tradition in Germany. The International School of Hamburg, which schools children in English from the ages of three to 18, opened its doors in 1957. The Independent Bonn International School, focused on children of primary-school age, was established in 1963.
A more recent addition to the list of English-language teaching establishments is King’s College, Frankfurt, based in Friedrichsdorf 20 kilometres north of that city.
“Families choose to come to us because we offer quality British education,” says Kirsty Sharp, head teacher at King’s College. “Many families who are international need to choose one education system that they will travel with around the world.”
To begin with, the school is for children aged between two-and-a-half and 11 years old. In the coming years, King’s College will open a secondary school and become a college, educating pupils from early years to the end of school studies.
“We very much have a ... hands-on approach to learning,” explains Sharp. “It’s very practical; it’s very investigative. We allow children to develop their curiosity, and we want them to have real-life opportunities. That’s one of the biggest things for us. It’s about applying knowledge to real-life situations.” Pupils take their IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams at the age of 16 and later sit A-level (Advanced Level) exams.
The majority of the students at King’s College are international, and currently 70 per cent are native speakers of English.
“With time, and when you’ve built up your reputation locally, you get the local families coming as well,” says Sharp. “Because the majority are native speakers, the other children who come in with very little English will pick it up quickly.
A sense of community is important within the school and among pupils. The school holds regular assemblies, and pupils are divided into four “houses”.
“Whenever I have to explain to parents, who aren’t British, about houses, I always end up saying: ‘Like in Harry Potter’, and then they understand,” says Sharp.
Rather than being a separate, Englishspeaking microcosm, the school works towards fostering integration within the local community. Sharp outlines one idea:
“We also want to give our parents who aren’t German, German lessons, so that they are able to access the community as well.”
Studying in English
Also in demand is the option of studying at an international university where students can enhance their language skills, exposing them to different cultures and viewpoints and helping them feel comfortable with multiple cultures. It’s good preparation, too, for working in an international environment.
Munich Business School is a small, private university that specializes in business administration. Students can study towards a bachelor’s and master’s degree in international business in either the bilingual track or the English track. The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programme, which is run in cooperation with Sheffield Hallam University, and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme are taught completely in English.
“The demand for English programmes has increased over the past couple of years, even with German students,” says Bettina Würdinger, MBA and DBA programmes adviser. “They’re all looking
for English programmes. And as we’re a private university, that gives us the flexibility to go with the trend and make the necessary changes, according to the demand of the students.”
Currently, 650 are students enrolled in the school, and roughly 50 per cent have chosen the English track. To be accepted, students need to have quite a good level of English.
“They need a minimum of 90 points in the TOEFL test or at least 6.5 in the IELTS test,” says Würdinger.
Internationality is intrinsic to the school. “When we were founded in the 1990s, it was the idea to provide students with the opportunity to go abroad during their studies,” says Content and Communication Manager Michael Huth. “Our bachelor’s and master’s students have to go abroad for at least one semester. We have more than 60 partner universities — in Asia, Australia, the USA and Europe.”
Würdinger says, “Our programmes are really hands-on. Students get case studies and have to give presentations, obviously in mixed groups. So in that sense, they get to know different cultures and different backgrounds.”
Master’s student Pascal Steinmann told Spotlight why he decided to study at Munich Business School: “The fact that you have direct and close contact with the professors, who work in their daily life in companies, is quite nice, and because of the small groups, you get to know them personally. You can build up a network with them, which is interesting and was quite an incentive to come here.”
The MBA class is small, with between 15 and 25 people, depending on whether the students are part-time or full-time. The DBA programme offers only 10 places a year. “We can really take individual care of all our students,” says Würdinger. “We know them by name, and that gives us a competitive advantage.”