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Five places to learn (Swiss) German for free in Zurich

The Local (news@thelocal.com)
The Local ([email protected]) • 22 Oct, 2022 Updated Sat 22 Oct 2022 11:58 CEST
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Many foreigners want to settle in Switzerland. Photo by Chris Lutke on Unsplash

German is not an easy language to learn, particularly Swiss German. The City of Zurich knows this and has several offers for free classes for immigrants. Writer Parul Chhaparia lists five of them.

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Let’s accept it. Learning German is not easy. And if you try to learn Swiss German, it could be as tricky as nailing jelly to a tree.

However, the difficulty is not the only reason many immigrants don’t pick up the local language as much as they would like. Sometimes, it is just that you are working too much to find time to learn, or you are unemployed and find these courses quite expensive, or you are a homemaker who does not need much language skills, so why invest time and energy?

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Even then, if you have been living in Switzerland for some time, you must have been motivated to learn the local language at least at some point. The good news is that most of the city authorities in Switzerland recognise these reasons and, therefore, offer free German courses to motivate people to learn the language more socially.

READ ALSO: 5 modern Swiss novels to read this summer

In this article, we have compiled some of the German learning programs that are offered for free by the city of Zurich for various focused groups of immigrants.

AOZ Fachbereich Gesellschaftliche Integration

AOZ is an independent public law institution in the city of Zurich. It fulfils social assistance and integration promotion tasks for asylum seekers, refugees, and other immigrants. In addition, AOZ has been actively offering language support to immigrants.

The institution offers free German courses at three locations in the city: Letzipark shopping centre, Pestalozzi Library Oerlikon, and Langstrasse.

READ ALSO: TEST: Is your German good enough for Swiss citizenship?

According to Samantha Sengupta, the project manager for the Societal Integration Department,
at AOZ, the project started way back in 2008-09 when 'learning Deutsch' was not mandatory.

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“The idea was to motivate people to come and see how they can learn Deutsch to integrate better. So we have been trying different ways, and currently, we have three locations in Zurich where these free classes are conducted,” Sengupta said.

Any person who lives in the city of Zurich can participate in the program. “The program is successful. We see many participants coming for the course. They decide how long they want to stay in the program. Some stay just for a few weeks, others for two to three months. It is mostly people considering to integrate and have low budget who come for this program,” she said.

You can find more information here.

Learning German is hard work, but worth it (Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash)

Gemeinschaftszentrum Buchegg

Even if you have been living in Zurich only for a few weeks, you might have discovered the Gemeinschaftszentrum (community centres) in your area.

They offer a diverse range of socio-cultural activities to those in particular areas. In addition, some of these centres also organise Language conversation café (Sprach-café) meet-ups.

The Gemeinschaftszentrum of Buchegg conducts its Sprach café every Tuesday from 10 am to 11 am. The sessions are currently conducted online and don't require any prior registration.

You can find more information here.

READ ALSO: 15 ways to swear like a Swiss German

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Gemeinschaftszentrum Leimbach

Like the Gemeinschaftszentrum Buchegg, the Leimbach centre also organises a Sprach-café face-to-face meetup weekly. According to Michalina Gründel, the teacher at the Sprach Café, “the program’s objective is also to bring more immigrants together to socialise with participants from other communities.”

“The program is for everyone. One does not need to have prior knowledge of much German, but it is important to have an A1 level. This is a common rule at GZ Leimbach,” Gründel said.

Gründel has taught many participants for the last couple of years at GZ Leimbach. Most of these participants are from local or nearby areas. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she organised online classes. “I had to switch to online lessons, but it worked better than I thought. Some days I would have more participants online than live,” she said.

You can find more information here.

READ ALSO: ‘Just so fun to say’: Are these the best Swiss German words to learn?

Gemeinschaftszentrum Loogarten

The Loograten Community has recently started its Sprach Café. The event takes place every Tuesday between 2 pm to 3 pm, without prior registration.

The program's focus is to brush up your German in a more fun and social way than in a complete school-like setting.

You can find more information here.

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Interact Language Tandem

Founded in 2017, Interact is a non-profit organisation to promote linguistic and cultural exchange between German and foreign-speaking people in Zurich.

The association organises language tandems in various languages, including Arabic, English, French, and Italian. The project is supported by the Kanton Zürich Integrationsförderung.

You can find more information here.

Many other places, such as Fachschule Viventa, supported by the city of Zurich, offer German lessons at a very reasonable fee without making a hole in the pockets of the immigrants. The city of Zurich website also provides a databank of different German courses suitable for various groups.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Tips for learning Swiss German from those who have

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