What are German students like to teach?


The stereotype of the humorless, sometimes arrogant German with the harsh, syllable-timed accent and flat intonation is still to some extent present in certain circles in the UK. However, having taught in Germany for over ten years, I can confirm that in my experience at least, the opposite tends to be true: German learners of English are curious, eager to learn and ask questions, and want to be corrected (the German passion for accuracy is one positive stereotype that does play out in real life).

How the school system works

The majority of Germans have received some form of English language instruction at school (in some regions this begins at around age 7) although the quality of the methodology employed can vary: some areas still favor the Grammar-Translation method, for example, and speaking practice, particularly for those not attending Gymnasium [traditionally the most academic of the three tiers of secondary education] can be minimal.

Older learners from the former East Germany may have a lower overall level of English than their peers who grew up in the former (West) German Federal Republic, as Russian tended to be the first foreign language taught. Nevertheless, on the whole, the level of English you as a teacher can expect learners to have is relatively high: B1 or above is not an uncommon starting level.

Getting it right

Germans value efficiency, and getting things done with language is very important to them. They appreciate communicative activities which mirror those they would naturally find themselves doing outside of the classroom. German learners also tend to want to “get it right” and appreciate correction, sometimes at the expense of fluency. I’ve also found that German students like to analyse language carefully and find/work out the rules for why something is as it is: the inductive approach is therefore often a fruitful basis for the acquisition phase of a lesson.

Learning by doing

Perhaps linked to the passion for correction, most German students I’ve taught tend to be modest about their achievements and underestimate their own proficiency. Which isn’t to say they’re generally shy: unlike many learners from some Asian states, most people are happy to have a go orally, get it wrong and learn from the mistake; “Learning by Doing” is an important concept in German education.


Finally, and most importantly, humor is certainly to be found in the German L1 classroom! I’ve had some great experiences laughing with my students at the strangeness of English vocabulary (“envelope”, “kettle” and “swap” have caused particular hilarity due to their pronunciation) and the vagaries of English pronunciation, as well as their own sometimes wobbly efforts to produce language. For anyone who likes a structured, communicative approach in the classroom and is happy to answer often probing questions about language, teaching German students would definitely be a rewarding experience.

Kirstie Jackson Wilms worked as a face-to-face General English trainer in Oxford before moving to Germany in 2010, where she continued to teach (mainly) Business English online. She joined the Publishing team of an online training provider in 2018. Kirstie is CELTA and DELTA qualified and is currently working towards an MA in Professional Development in Language Education (MA PDLE). Her professional interests are in developing learner autonomy through materials writing and classroom practice. In her free time she enjoys hiking, reading crime novels, and watching cricket. Check out her blog: https://tefl45.wordpress.com/

Categories: Countries