Choosing to learn German in Italy is a unique opportunity to learn the language of one country, while immersing yourself in the culture and sights of another!
As the most widely spoken language in the EU, and one of the top 10 most spoken languages in the world, German is an incredibly valuable language to learn. And, with nearly half a million native German speakers nestled into the Dolomites Range in the region of South Tyrol, Italy is a great place to learn German abroad.
Whether you're interested in arts, history, and culture, nature and the outdoors, or fashion and big-city life, Italy has something for everyone -- and there are plenty of language schools and universities offering German language courses.
Choose to study between the snow-capped mountains and lake district of the north, among the Roman ruins, deep history, and ancient architecture of Florence and Rome, or along the pristine Mediterranean coastline.
While most universities and language schools in Italy focus on the Italian language, there are plenty of opportunities to learn German in Italy.
Studying German at a university is a great opportunity to learn in a more structured environment and continue working toward your degree while receiving credit for language learning. If you're set on studying German at the university level, The Language Centre at The University of Bozen-Bolzano offers intensive German courses at intermediate and advanced levels and teaches degree level courses in English, German, and Italian.
University education in Italy (and most of Europe) is quite different than that of the United States -- grades are typically determined by final exams or papers, and there are rarely assignments, papers, or midterms throughout the course.
German language schools in Italy offer courses for all levels from beginners to advanced, and often offer specialized workshops for those looking to improve on a specific area of their language skills. You'll find courses dedicated to topics including politics, film, and literature, and travel in Germany, and help to perfect your grammar and fluency. Group courses are usually the most flexible and cost-effective way to learn a language and give you the opportunity to learn from others and share in the experience of learning a language abroad. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
- Goethe Institut offers German language courses in various locations around Italy, including Rome, Naples, and Milan.
- Österreich Institut offers German language courses in Rome with workshops dedicated to topics ranging from film to travel in Germany and perfecting your grammar and fluency.
- Instituto Tedesco offers German courses in Perugia, with opportunities for specialized courses like intensive grammar and a conversation course.
- Language Trainers offers 1-on-1 or small group German courses in Florence that are tailored to student's individual needs.
There are also always opportunities to learn German through private tutoring. Though this is likely the most expensive and unstructured option, your tutor can tailor your German lessons to your specific language learning needs and ability.
Why Learn German Abroad?
As the official language of Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the South Tyrol region of Italy, and Germany, German is the most spoken native language in the European Union, and among the ten most spoken languages globally.
There's a not only a high demand for the German language within Europe, but there are also several German-speaking regions remaining in former colonies across Africa and South America. Plus, it's one of the most commonly used languages in the scientific community and on the internet and is the native language of many brilliant minds, including philosopher Karl Marx, musicians Beethoven and Mozart, and the Father of Modern Physics, Albert Einstein.
Learning German can connect you with around 200 million German speakers across the globe, and with Germany's strong international presence and economy, it can open a host of career opportunities and otherwise untapped earnings. After English, German is the most requested language by Italian employers.
If you're a native English-speaker, learning German may come relatively easy to you. English and German are part of the same linguistic family, and 26% of the English language has shared roots with German.
If you're just beginning your German language studies, you'll likely want to enroll in a course that covers the basics and creates a foundation for further learning. If you've already studied or been exposed to the German language, consider taking a more advanced course.
Some German language programs require you to complete a proficiency entrance exam or provide a certificate verifying your level of competence. Don't push yourself into a language course that's higher than your ability -- you're not doing yourself any favors, and it'll only set you back in the long run.
Popular Locations to Learn German in Italy
You're most likely to find German language programs in Italy's major cities like Florence, Rome and Milan, the university town of Perugia, and the German-speaking region of South Tyrol.
- South Tyrol (also known as Alto Adige and Südtirol). South Tyrol is a northern province of Italy, and German is the official language and spoken by most of the population. Part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and nestled along the Austrian and Swiss borders, close to 70% of its 500,000 inhabitants speak German today. Many visitors to South Tyrol might not immediately recognize the language as German. The Austro-Bavarian dialect of German is most spoken in this region, which is noticeably different from Standard German -- an important consideration when choosing to learn German in this particular region of Italy.
- Florence, Milan, and Rome. While South Tyrol is the only official German-speaking region of Italy, a number of providers offer German language courses in Italy's major cities. If you're interested in studying in a city that's more like a living museum, you'll find history around every corner in Rome. You can get your fill of Tuscan cuisine and feast on the work of some of the most famous artists in history in Florence. If fast-paced city life is more your thing, consider Italy's finance and fashion capital, Milan.
- Perugia. Perched on a hilltop and surrounded by historic walls, Perugia, is a mid-sized university city that's home to tens of thousands of students, many of them are international students studying abroad.
Choosing a German Learning Program in Italy
Deciding to learn German in Italy will offer the unique opportunity of meeting students from all over the world while learning German and being fully immersed in Italian life and culture.
While there are significantly fewer opportunities for learning German in Italy, don't worry -- there are language programs for every age and ability.
When choosing a German learning program in Italy, it's important to consider your language learning goals and current level of fluency. If you want to learn as much as possible or as quickly as possible, you might want to look into a long-term or intensive immersion program. While it might be hard work, you'll be speaking German in no time!
If you're more interested in learning German on a conversational level, you might enjoy a program that offers cultural activities and excursions in combination with language studies.
Cultural Immersion in Italy
Because you'll be studying German while living in Italy, you're not likely to get much exposure to German language and culture outside of class -- unless you're living in South Tyrol or with a group of German-speaking students who are studying abroad in Italy.
That being said, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria are all train or plane ride away and perfect for a weekend away to practice your newly-learned language skills. Check to see if your language program may offer German or Italian cultural activities and excursions as part of your course. If not, enjoy the opportunity to be fully immersed in Italian life, culture, and history everywhere you go.
Cost of living in Italy varies greatly and the amount of money you'll need to study in Italy will be dependent on your lifestyle and where you choose to live. Milan, Florence, and Rome are among Italy's most expensive cities, though if you stick to areas outside of tourist hotspots, you won't need to sacrifice your travel funds to enjoy la bella vita.
Average German Language School
Depending on the type and length of course you choose, the number of hours of instruction per week, and course materials included, tuition could set you back anywhere from a few hundred euros to upwards of €2,000.
Scholarships for Learning German in Italy
That being said, learning a language abroad doesn't have to break the bank! There are a number of scholarships and grants available for study abroad, and be sure to ask your program provider if there is any financial assistance offered through their organization.
Cost of Living in Italy
Depending on where you choose to study German in Italy, the cost of living will vary widely. As with anywhere you visit, whether you choose to live in the city center, the outer suburbs, or in a more rural location will have an impact on your cost of living.
Housing will often be provided through your language program and can range from a homestay with a local family, student dorms, or a shared apartment. If your language program doesn't include accommodation, rent will likely be your biggest expense regardless of where you choose to study in Italy -- expect to spend anywhere from €300 per month €1,000 per month on housing. Pair up with other students in your course to share an apartment to cut down on living costs.
It's not difficult to eat incredibly well in Italy without spending a fortune. Avoid eating anywhere that you see just as many non-Italians as Italians. Take advantage of local markets for fresh, local food and try your hand at cooking Italian food at home. And definitely get acquainted with aperitivo!
A typical Italian breakfast involves coffee and a pastry, and shouldn't cost more than a few euros. For lunch, a good panino will cost around €5, and you can find a takeaway slice of pizza for €2. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant can range from €12 for lunch and up to €20 for dinner, with house wine typically about €2 per glass.
Visas & Other Relevant Information
Italy is part of the Schengen Zone, and therefore most visitors can stay for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. So, if your course is less than 90 days, you can enter Italy on a simple tourist visa!
If you're taking a course that's longer than 90 days, you'll need to apply for a student visa that will allow you to stay in Italy for up to one year. Don't forget to apply for a residency card (permesso di soggiorno) within 8 days of arriving in Italy. Make sure you have proof of your enrollment in a course and the ability to support yourself financially, as well as a passport that is valid for at least six months past your date of arrival in Italy.
Most universities and language schools with courses longer than 90 days will be able to offer support with this process.