Business German - how we teach: FAQ

GLS welcomes up to 250 business clients every year, from companies like Sony, Rolls Royce, Ebay, but also from political bodies like the European Commission and embassies. 

Iris Otto

... teaches Business German at GLS. Her background: 25 years experience as coach and business trainer. She has taught at universities and Goethe Institutes (both in Germany and abroad) and has been with GLS for more than 7 years. 

Who are your students?

Usually executives, business owners or politicians, and nearly all of them impress me by their intelligence, expertise and quick grasp. I do enjoy teaching them, it is absolute fun. 

How many of your clients are sent by their companies, how many book on their own?

I´d say about 30% book the course on their own account - either because they are business owners or because they want more flexibility. Companies usually finance 2 or 3 weeks of intensive training, and self-paying students tend to book longer programs. Right now for example I am teaching a medical examiner from Italy: He booked 3 months of individual lessons. He is highly motivated and wants to make sure that he reaches the level of German he needs and aims at.

What are the professional fields that you cover in your teaching?

I have taught professionals from a variety of fields, but in general there is a high demand for German among professionals working in the fields of law, teaching, medicine, and I am frequently teaching those courses.

Can you teach legal/medical German without being a lawyer or a doctor yourself?

Of course I can. I am aware that in Great Britain Legal English sometimes is taught by lawyers, but in Germany the focus is a different one: not so much on content, but on communication. I don´t have to know the intricacies of the legal system, which differ anyway from country to country - my job is to empower communication skills in the workplace. 

How do you do that?

I - and not only I, it is the general policy at GLS - teach in German exclusively, i.e. I don´t use the clients´native language in order to explain things. That way clients learn German like they learned their native language, a lot faster and more intuitively. Apart from that I train German in real-life situations. I ask clients to bring a presentation for example, and together we work on that. Or we simulate negotiations about topics taken from their field of expertise. The teaching process often resembles a coaching session, because students also get feedback regarding the way their performance would be received and evaluated in a German business context. 

What do you recommend: individual or group tuition?

If a client has highly specific demands, he or she will be happier with individual tuition. Groups are great for those who learn better with fellow students around. GLS offers a combination of group plus one-to-one, so you can have both.  

If clients opt for group + one-to-one, the group trains General German. Why?

We´d love to offer groups reserved for laywers or doctors only, but to do that you need fixed starting dates, maybe 2 or 3 per year. And we don´t want to do that: We want to offer business clients the possibility to start any Monday all year round.

Apart from that - training general German is extremely helpful, it gives you more ease and confidence, thus enhancing your professional performance. Not to forget: the group tuition is complemented by indivdual tuition, so you can deal with highly specific German one-to-one. 

What are the teaching materials you use?

They are tailormade. I regularly attend training courses that are organized by publishing companies like Klett or Hueber who publish textbooks focussing on the respective branch of Business German, like German for doctors, German for journalistes etc.. We use their textbooks plus materials compiled according to expert recommendations.

What is the difference in teaching General and Business German?

I have about 90 colleagues at GLS, 10 of them are qualified to teach Business German because they attended further qualifications. Apart from that experience and social skills matter a lot: Business clients are used to being in command, being the expert, but when they learn German they experience a role-reversal: they are not - not yet at least - in command. And as a teacher you have to be able to handle that well and make them feel comfortable with it. 

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