Some of you may recall back in August 2016 I embarked on an intensive German language learning home tuition experience with Sprachinstitut Treffpunkt-Online in the beautiful Bavarian city of Bamberg. There I spent two weeks living in the beautiful home of my native host teacher doing one-on-one lessons all day, Monday to Friday as well as going on leisure activities with my hosts at weekends.
The ethos at Treffpunkt-Online is total immersion. At the beginning, I found such an approach remarkably challenging. However, following a bit of a meltdown on the second day, both my teacher, Alexandra, and her husband, Joachim, rallied round and made me realise I was doing great and making excellent progress. That really boosted my confidence, and from that point forward things felt as though they were becoming much easier.
For me, the most important thing about the course was the ability to customise the content to my requirements. Personally, I cannot stand those condescending and rather juvenile books which most language schools use. Instead, Alexandra quizzed me about my interests and aims, tested my current abilities and then carefully gathered materials from several sources to suit my needs. The result was an extremely enjoyable learning experience which felt totally relevant and unique to me.
To break up the week for both myself and Alexandra, I also had another teacher, Marion, for several sessions. She is a linguistics specialist at Bamberg University and came to help me improve my pronunciation. That was very useful indeed, as I find group courses place insufficient emphasis on that important aspect of language which results in bad speaking habits becoming ingrained. Marion also taught me some seemingly weird but very effective memory retention and concentration techniques, both of which I usually lack.
Joachim cooked most of the meals which were simply amazing and I never went hungry despite my voracious appetite. He’s an amazing cook. Even the huge variety of jams and marmalades on the breakfast table were made by him using produce from their beautiful garden. We did dine out at nearby eateries on a couple of occasions, but always at ones serving typical local and regional dishes to ensure my experience was always authentically German.
The course is held in the university city of Bamberg in northern Bavaria, famous for its stunning Baroque architecture, numerous breweries and “Rauchbier” (smoked beer). It is surrounded by beautiful undulating countryside which we explored on a long hike at the weekend. During my stay, I was also privileged enough to attend the wedding reception Heidi and Ulli, friends of Alex and Joachim. That gave me an excellent opportunity to practice what I had learnt with a very mixed crowd of people, although copious amounts of beer did help ease my inhibitions in that respect. I also got to attend the world famous “Sandkerwa” festival which was underway just before I left – very crowded but an experience nonetheless. There was never a dull moment.
On paper, the course does not look cheap. However, it offers extremely good value when you consider it includes lodging in a comfortable home, tasty meals (full or half board depending on the chosen options), tailored one-to-one lessons with experienced teachers plus great leisure activities. Above all, I left after two weeks with vastly improved German skills and a huge sense of achievement. In fact, the results speak for themselves – the day I arrived home I was having conversations with elderly neighbours that lasted far beyond talking about the weather, and many people since noticed a marked improvement in my understanding and use of the language. Most importantly, I noticed that after the course I was thinking in German as opposed to thinking in English and translating to German. The only downside of that was there were several times afterwards when Deutsch came out when I was trying to say something in English!
So, do I recommend the course? One hundred percent, especially if you are serious about raising the level of your German quickly. Being one-to-one means you have the teacher’s full attention the entire time unlike in group lessons, but it was always fun. Alexandra also established another language school in the city which still offers group classes. She still has close ties to it meaning I got to meet other students, the new owners and many of the teachers. Incidentally, I also did a course at that school later in the year and I will write a mini-review of that shortly.
A link to the school website can be found by clicking here where you will find full details and downloadable brochures of their adult and junior programmes as well as their Skype lessons. Also on offer are courses for business, exam preparation, job applications not to mention the themed “German +” courses which combine German learning with activities such as cycling, horse riding, beer tasting and many more.