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English in German Public Schools

I’ve had a request from a blog reader to write about how English is taught in the schools in Germany, so here goes:

My son is a student in the local public schools in Stuttgart, and in our state (Baden-Wuerttemberg) they begin learning English in first grade using a British system called Playway to English ( There is a weekly video, along with singing and art projects they do with their teacher, and the children work their way through the books. In addition to this, I, and a mother from India did projects such as playing games and hosting snack times where only English was spoken. By the end of elementary school (fourth grade) most of the kids could speak basic English, and many of them enjoyed practicing with me.

As I’ve just mentioned, it’s a British program used in the schools. Most of the time the only difference from American English is pronunciation or spelling, but sometimes the word is completely different, such as “chips” for French fries, or “crisps” for potato chips. This annoyed my son, but as I always reminded him, if he’s in England, he’ll be able to understand everyone (this reminder also annoyed him, though it amused me greatly).

Something that helped me explain the differences between British and American English was that I learned German in Austria, so when kids would ask, “do you understand both ‘Father Christmas’ and ‘Santa Claus,’” I could ask, “do you understand both Erdapfel [potato in Austrian German] and Kartoffel [potato in German German].” That way they could see the differences were not completely different words, they were just not the words I used regularly.

In September, my son will start Gymnasium, secondary school in Germany, and we’ve chosen an art and language school, so it has a focus on these subjects. In fifth grade he’ll start learning American English, in sixth grade they’ll add French, in eighth Latin, and in tenth Russian. Should be an interesting eight years for us!

If you have any questions about life in Germany you’d like me to talk about, please let me know, and if you have any questions about selling a self-published book, check out my site!