Dear incoming Erasmus+ student,
Here you will find important information on required German language skills for your stay in Austria so you can enjoy your studies at the University of Education in Vienna.
Is my German good enough for studying in Austria?
Please note that almost all classes at the University are held in German. Therefore: please use the time BEFORE you come to Austria to learn German - this will help you for your first steps here and allow you to progress faster at learning German if you do not switch to other languages that you already know such as as English, Spanish,Turkish etc.
How to prepare for your visit: Learn German before you come to Austria!
To learn German use one of the many possibilities in your home town:
- attend a German course at your own university (in Spain, Turkey, Italy etc.),
- attend a German course in a private language school in your town,
- take private German lessons
- find a language tandem partner and exchange your language for German for free (e.g. German-Spanish)
- use an e-learning course to learn on your computer or online
- attend an intensive language course in Austria before the start of the semester
- learn German by combining several of the possibilities mentioned above. E.g. attend a German course and in addition find a tandem partner to practice conversation and get information about living in a German speaking country, afterwards visit an intensive German course in Vienna to be more fluent before the academic semester starts. In this way you will feel better prepared and safer to start the academic year.
One of the options to prepare for your visit and learn German before the semester begins is that you can come to Wien during the summer vacation before the university starts (you have three months time: July, August, September) or in winter during the semester break (the whole of February) and visit the intensive courses (between 3 and 6 hours every day) at the language schools here. You can find some recommendations for e-learning courses and for German courses in Vienna at the end of this information sheet.
What exactly do you need the German language for while living in Austria?
Good reasons for an adequate command of German:
First of all German is the official language in Austria.
Also consider that once you come to Wien you will have to visit different offices, make phone calls, write emails to professors and so on, for example to arrange your place in the student’s dormitory, buy a semester ticket for public transportation, sign up for seminars and buy food, go out, visit a doctor in case of emergency etc.
For all of this you will have a very limited time and will need to know German words for food, expressions for ordering coffee in a café, buying food in the university cafeteria or in a supermarket, necessary words for university/seminars, numbers, saying the dates, times of the day for making appointments, introducing yourself and giving information like your birth date, address, spelling your name, telling your telephone number, your passport number, asking for the way in the city if you need to find a specific office, say hello and good-bye, make small talk like `how are you?`, know how to use basic verbs and their conjugation (to be, to have, to speak, to understand, to ask, to answer, to know, to search, to go, to buy…) to deal with situations in every day life.
Is it not enough if I already speak English?
Of course it will be a help if you know English and there are also some seminars that you can visit in English. Many people in Austria do speak English and will also be happy to speak English/Spanish/Turkish or other languages with you.
But generally Austria is a German speaking country and it will be very difficult for you if you only speak a foreign language and are not prepared to understand and speak German.
Also take into account that by speaking only English you cannot get to know the country so well, develop personal contacts with the local students, and understand the mentality. You will also have a limited choice of going to theatres, seeing local movies and performances, choosing interesting seminars at the university, and making Austrian friends. In this way you will miss the opportunity of getting to know the country better and will have a rather limited, tourist-like perspective of the country. That would be a pity!
Be also aware of the fact that if people in your country realize that you are spending half a year in Austria, they will very likely expect you to know German. It might be even embarrassing if a future employer looks in your CV, notices that you lived in Vienna for almost half a year and then finds out that you didn´t learn any German or just a little small-talk during that amount of time.
Last but not least it is a question of good manners and intercultural competence that a visitor tries to learn the language of a country that will host her/him for a longer period. Imagine someone coming to live in your country for a longer period of time but is only interested in improving his/her English, visiting English seminars, watching English/American movies and hanging out with foreign students. Probably you would wonder what for did the person then to go to your country instead of going to the United Kingdom, Ireland or the USA it there is no interest at all to understand the language and culture of your country- wouldn´t you?
“I am sure I’ll be able to learn German when I am already in Austria”- right?
Some students believe that it is not worth learning German before they come to Austria - they will learn everything when they are already there.
My observation as a German teacher in Austria shows that this usually does not work very well. Why?
If you come to Austria with no command of German you will most probably attend only English seminars. Then you will also find friends who speak either English or your mother tongue with you and in this way you will spend the day at the university speaking English and in your free time you will also be speaking English or your mother tongue. Of course, you will also pick up some German words while walking on the streets or by visiting a German course once a week etc. but you will rarely use it in real life and at university and your progress will be very slow. Such students usually leave Vienna after one semester, regretting that they did not learn enough German.
So it is up to you to use the opportunity to learn a new language. If you learn some German before you come to Austria, it will help you a lot to do your first steps in Austria already in German and will allow you to progress faster in learning because then you do not need to switch to other languages as English, Spanish, Turkish etc.
Recommendation to find a German speaking room mate in your student dormitory
While looking for a room in a student dormitory please try to share a room with a person that does not speak your mother tongue.
Ask the person who is in charge of distributing rooms that you would like to share a room with a German speaking person if that is possible.
In this way you will have more opportunities to speak and learn German (“for free” so to speak), will probably get to know more German speaking people for activities in your free time and for going out, and you will have someone to eventually help you with your homework and daily needs in German directly in your bed /study room.
Choosing a German speaking room mate is a wonderful opportunity for learning German that, unfortunately, most incoming students underestimate.
Which language level should you have for your stay in Austria?
Try to learn or improve your German at home as soon as you are accepted in the Erasmus exchange in Austria. Generally there are 6 language levels (see description above). The higher your level the better. In general in order to study at an Austrian university you must have <s>a</s> C1 or at least the lower B2 level. At our University (PH Wien) we also accept Erasmus-students with lower levels but you should do your best to at least have B1 so you can understand the professors and students in the seminars.
What happens if you come with no knowledge of German at all?
If you come with no knowledge of German or only A1 or A2, the Erasmus+ coordinators and the professors might have a big problem finding seminars for you and you will have problems taking exams at the end of the semester, getting enough ETCS credits and enjoying your time in Wien. The worst case would be if you don´t get enough credits and have to pay your Erasmus+ grant back.
Furthermore, if you come with no knowledge of German at all it will mean that you will have to ask someone else to do some work for you and help you out in different situations. In this way you make yourself dependent on other people, their good will/time to help you and you might even have to pay somebody to translate papers or documents for you if you need to sign something important.
Important every-day situations for which you will need German
Reading instructions for applying online for university courses, reading course descriptions for seminars, understanding rules and requirements for seminars, participating in seminars and doing the exams, dealing with all kinds of necessary paper work for your Erasmus+ and dormitory contracts, buying student semester city-transport tickets and train tickets, opening and closing a bank account, doing a bank transfer to pay your dormitory bills, dealing with insurance when visiting a doctor or in case of an accident/emergency and many others.
Not speaking any German in those situations will sooner or later become a problem and will make your time in Wien more stressful than necessary. You can avoid many of those problems by learning at least some German before you come to Vienna.
Will there be a free of charge German course at the PH Wien during the semester?
Yes, there is a free of charge German course for Erasmus students at the PH Wien.
But note: as the classes at the University are held in German, this course aims at improving the language skills of students whose command of German is already quite satisfactory (at least B1 plus level)!
As mentioned before, this German course is designed to accompany Erasmus students in their language study during their stay in Austria, so the planned levels for the German courses are B2, C1 and C2.
How many hours is the German course at the PH Wien?
The course is around 3 hours a week. You get 4,5 ECTS credits for successfully completing the course.
This amount of hours is enough to assist you in your German so you can manage your everyday life in Vienna and become more confident in speaking but it is certainly not enough to offer you a fast and intensive progress if you would like to reach a much higher level. For that you would need to go to an intensive language course at a private language school that offers you at least 12 hours of classes per week.
How many levels are there in the German course at PH Wien?
We usually have 3 levels, level 1 (Gruppe 1) being the lowest (usually B1), level 2 (Gruppe 2) in the middle (usually B2) and level 3 (Gruppe 3) usually the highest (C1/C2).
How do I know in which level/group at the PH Wien German course I belong?
You can sign up online for any of the 3 courses but on the first day of the course a language test will be conducted. Please come to the first class to do the test. 2-3 days later you will get information regarding which level/group suits you best.
What are the aims of the German course at the PH Wien?
The aim of the course is to offer students topics and information about Austrian German that they would (rather or usually) not get in their own country, as German courses abroad focus more on learning the “German German” used in Germany. Therefore the aim of the course is to get acquainted with written and spoken standard Austrian German, so you can understand what happens around you and write your own emails/papers etc. if necessary. We work with authentic materials: you-tube videos, songs, stories, letters, documents and poems in standard Austrian German so you can gain an insight into Austrian culture and media.
Will there be any grammar classes in the PH Wien German course?
Yes, there will be a few topics on grammar but note that we do not offer a specific focus on German grammar as most grammar is taught at the A1, A2 and B1 level and can be later on as well practiced in German courses at your home universities/at other language schools.
Another reason for not focusing on grammar so much is our experience that on an advanced level each student seems to have other/individual difficulties with grammar for which individual grammar coaching seems more effective. Therefore, for the German course, we prefer to choose topics that are new to all students to make the lessons more effective and offer all incoming students something they won´t get in a German course at their home universities.
What skills does the PH Wien German course focus on?
The course focuses most of all on improving your lexical expression (learning vocabulary) in speaking and writing as well as listening comprehension.
Students are encouraged to practice speaking in group discussions and in presentations with each other, with the German teacher and with native speakers.
Will there also be a German course for beginners (A1 or A2 level) at PH Wien?
There are no German courses for beginners, because normally you should have <s>a</s> B2 or C1 level of German at least if you want to study effectively at an Austrian university and pass exams in German.
As some students fail to achieve B2 level or higher in the few months before they come to Austria, we also accept B1 students. But those students will eventually have to study more and invest more time in coping with the level of the texts, study vocabulary and manage tasks for working with the videos.
Can I get any help with my German at Ph Wien if I come as a beginner (A1)?
Depending on our time resources we will also try to assist students with no knowledge of German (A1, A2) in their individual learning objectives but due to the limited amount of teaching hours and the number of students with different levels, the German course itself is not able to offer any "traditional" intensive language class for beginners.
In any case, you should make sure that you come to the first meeting in the semester,so we can see what we can do for you and eventually find a study-partner for you.
Language courses in Wien in private language schools
If you are not B1 level yet or want to improve your level from B1 to B2 or from B2 to C1 you can come to Wien in summer before the semester starts, and attend one of the many intensive German courses offered by private language schools in Wien.
Usually an intensive course lasts one month for the lower levels (A1, A2) and two to three months for a higher level (B1, B2, C1, C2). For example if you would like to finish at A1 level you can come at the beginning of July, August or September (the courses usually start on the first working day of the month). In order to finish an A1 and an A2 level you usually need two months - for example the whole of August and September.
For an intensive course it is wise to take a course with a minimum of 3 hours every day, or better 4 or even 6 hours:
Examples for recommendable courses:
Courses at the University of Vienna
4 hours a day Monday-Friday
Costs for Erasmus students: around € 345
There are also other additional courses like grammar or conversation etc. For more information check the website
Private language School located in the city center
groups 4-10 students, one level= 1 month (for example whole of February or whole of August),
3 hours of German class 4 days a week (Monday - Thursday in the morning, afternoon or evening).
Costs = around € 250 per course
There are also other additional courses. For more information check the website.
Other German courses can be found at the following schools: Wihok, vhs, Actilingua, IKI, Berlitz, etc.- google them and other schools for more information on specific dates and prices.
Recommended e-learning German course
You can also use one of the internet or e-learning based tools to prepare yourself for your stay in a German-speaking environment that offer a very good preparation for beginners.
There are plenty of different e-learning programmes but the quality varies a lot. I personally recommend this one: “Interaktive Sprachreise” by the company Digital Publishing. Check it out here:
This course is a good quality interactive course with a reasonably low price that also offers a dictionary, grammar explanations in English, Spanish, Italian etc., a vocabulary trainer, video-sequences, listening exercises and chapter tests.