At school, Australian students are taught about Arthur Phillip and his appointment as the first governor of New South Wales after the invasion of 1788. What they aren't taught is that Governor Phillip had German-English parentage, nor does the curriculum specifically teach of the role of German-speaking people in the early development of Sydney.
Initially, the number of Germans was small but by the 1830s, many more German merchants and winegrowers had settled in Sydney, along with scientists and explorers, including Ludwig Leichhardt who disappeared mysteriously on one of his attempts to cross Australia from the east coast to the west. For many years, the only evidence of his whereabouts was the Leichhardt plate (now housed in the National Museum of Australia, in Canberra), found wedged in a Boab tree in which a distinctive L was carved.
If you want to learn more about Germany's historic ties with Australia in the earliest days, the New South Wales state archives have a number of online resources, including a series of German migration stories.
Today, Sydney is a culturally diverse city, with a German-speaking community surpassing 25,000, and is, according to 2017 census data, home to the most 'German suburb' in Australia — Manly.
Unsurprisingly, with so many German expat residents, the interest in the language and culture is significant — and well met with a wide range of opportunities to learn the language and experience the culture.
So, where should you start looking for German classes in Sydney? Would it be better to engage a private German tutor or enrol in beginner German lessons at a language institute?
Superprof is here to answer your questions.
The Best Places for Beginner German Lessons
For beginners to language learning, German is not ranked as one of the easiest languages to learn — that accolade is taken by languages like French, Italian, Spanish and, somewhat surprisingly, Norweigian.
Yes, the language of Germany is riddled with masculine, feminine and neutral nouns, a strict syntax and verbs with heavy conjugation rules — but, on the positive side, the vocabulary is easy to pronounce and spell and, unlike English, the rules are the rules!
If your high school didn't offer German classes, you may, as an adult student, be learning from scratch, so you'll want to find somewhere that offers supportive and enjoyable lessons that are also specific to your needs and have you confidently saying: ich spreche Deutsch.
One of two language and culture institutions, the other being located in Melbourne, the Goethe-Institut acts as the cultural liaison between Germany and Australia. Their goal is to promote student learning of the German language abroad and facilitate international cultural exchange.
The Goethe-Institut offers courses for children and teens through to adults. Students wanting beginner German lessons are well catered for, as are advanced students who are looking to take an international business course or the proficiency exam, and all courses have online options. They also run a wide range of cultural events, which anyone can join, allowing the community to experience German culture.
Sydney Language Solutions
If you want to learn a language, Sydney Language Solutions is your one-stop shop, offering a full range of Asian and European languages, from Hindi and Thai through to French and Spanish, both in face-to-face lessons and online.
As far as German is concerned, they offer a 20-hour German for Beginners course, kids classes, intermediate courses and online private tutoring.
University of Sydney
The university offers a wide range of German classes for Sydney residents and beyond. Their beginners courses are perfect for students who have no prior experience with Germany or its language and introduce not only the essential vocabulary and grammar but also tie this in with culture through food and festive events. Students can continue their learning by enrolling in level 2, level 3 and level 4 courses. Intermediate and advanced students also have access to a German grammar course with a focus on English and German grammar (syntax, morphology and putting theory into practice).
For students who want to make their university degree all about Germany and languages, the University of Sydney also houses the Department of Germanic Studies. Established in the 1850s, this department offers diploma, bachelor and masters level degrees in Germanic Studies, encompassing language as well as literature, culture, film, history and societal studies. Exchange programs are also available, allowing students to experience life and study in a German-speaking country.
Learning with a German Tutor
If you don't want to enrol in a formal German course, you may prefer to engage a private German tutor. For students who are enrolled in formal classes or a degree level course, a private tutor is also a good option to gain extra speaking experience, fine-tune your grammar or communication skills or prepare for your upcoming proficiency exam.
Susanne German Tutoring
Susanne Richter holds a Magister Artium in German as a Foreign Language and Spanish Studies, and has been teaching German at the University of Sydney and in various high schools for over a decade. She now offers online course programs and private one-on-one tutoring from her bases in Sydney and Berlin. Her mission is to help you fall in love with learning languages.
This multinational company, with head offices in Sydney as well as Brisbane and Adelaide, pairs students with experienced German tutors for one-on-one or small group lessons, online or face-to-face at all levels. Each student has their specific needs met with individualised programs and lessons, whether they are learning for international travel purposes, to apply for work overseas in German-speaking countries or even as a hobby.
On the Superprof platform, there are over 4,000 tutors of German listed, many of whom are in Sydney. But, don't limit your search to where you live. Focus instead on the specific skills and offerings of each tutor, to find someone whose teaching aligns with your needs. With the power of technology these days, most tutors offer online lessons. Your ideal tutor may well live over the other side of Australia — or they may even be living and teaching from overseas.
Is it better to have a native-speaking tutor or a tutor whose first language is English?
This is a question more frequently asked than you may realise. There are pros and cons to both.
Tutor who is a native speaker:
- Pros — students can hear and practice correct pronunciation and intonation; cultural information will be deeper and more personal; lessons can be conducted in German, providing a more immersive experience
- Cons — sometimes it can be really hard to explain the intricacies of grammar and nuances of your own language
Tutor who is not a native speaker:
- Pros — non-native speaking tutors had to learn the language themselves, so will better understand the difficulties and may have more effective tips for remembering grammar or vocabulary; explaining the rules of another language is often easier than explaining the rules of your own
- Cons — it is a rare non-native speaking teacher or tutor who truly understands the nuances of the language they teach; their own level may only be a few above the level of the student; they are looking at, and teaching, the language and culture from the perspective of an outsider (can also be a pro)
German Language Classes for Native Speakers
You might think this is strange, however, it is not uncommon for native German parents, who are living in Australia with their children for long periods, to want their children to maintain their native language and culture. These children will often be attending their local public or private schools, so are immersed in the English language and Australian culture.
Studies have been done that show the definite psychological value and importance of maintaining a connection with your native culture.
Of course, for long term residents, with children who were born in Australia, this may be difficult as young people often don't like to be singled out as different. For that reason, it may take several years for the children (now adults) to realise they want to regain that connection.
In these cases, finding a native German-speaking tutor would be ideal. You can go through the same avenues listed above. Some community groups may also offer conversation sessions for locals.
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