Language& education

But only a few refugees speak German.[2] As different as the countries are from which people flee to Germany, as different are the languages they speak. Among the most common are Arabic, Albanian and Persian languages.[3] They function very differently from German. The Arabic language, for example, is based on the Arabic alphabet, which has completely different letters than the Latin alphabet. Arabic is also written and read from right to left.[4]

Many refugees therefore find it difficult to learn the German language.[5] It is especially difficult for illiterate people, who also exist among the refugees. They can’t read and write at all and have to learn the alphabet first.[6] It is impossible to imagine our everyday life without writing, but there are also countries where the oral word counts more than the written word.[7]

Integration Course

Refugees with a positive asylum decision and refugees who are still in the asylum procedure and have a so-called good perspective of staying[8] have the right to an integration course. The Integration course is made up of a language course and an orientation course.[9] In the language course, they learn with other new immigrants what is necessary for speaking and writing in everyday life. This also includes contact with authorities, conversations at the workplace and writing letters.[10] In the subsequent orientation course, they learn the basics of the German legal system, history and social coexistence as well as values that are important in Germany, such as freedom of religion and equal rights.[11]

But an integration course alone is not enough. Those who have no contact with Germans beyond this cannot practice. But for learning a language and getting to know a society, that’s very important.[12] Children often find it easier to learn languages than adults. The most important places for this are schools. Refugee children and young people also have a right to school in the country of protection, because education is a human right.[13] But in many countries of the world, education is a luxury good open only to people with money.[14] Some rulers even deliberately prevent the population from having access to education and work. Because education enables participation and that is a threatening scenario especially in dictatorships.

Fatmire Alushi

"I came to Germany from Kosovo when I was five years old and went straight to a kindergarten. There I quickly learned German. I had to settle in first, but through soccer it went really fast. I have made friends and gained self-confidence. But I had to work hard for my successes and earn respect."

Fatmire Alushi 28 years old, before the baby break midfielder at Paris Saint-Germain, currently in the squad of the German women’s national soccer team at SG Dynamo Dresden, came from Syria when she was five years old

Denald Jonuzi

"My brother speaks German at school for seven hours every day. It is easier to learn German there. I took a language course and speak German with my teammates as well. I would like to do an education to improve my German and to secure our livelihood."

Denald Jonuzi 21 years old, midfielder at SC Germania Erftstadt-Lechenich, comes from Albania

Educational opportunities and compulsory schooling

In Germany, the Basic Law requires that all children in school and education have the same Educational opportunities should be able to find a job later on. The parents’ earnings should not play a role here.[15] School attendance for refugee children and adolescents is regulated differently by the federal states. In some begins the Compulsory education with the asylum application, in others only after three or six months of residence in Germany.[16] There are also different types of instruction: some children go to a regular class from the first day of school and receive additional remedial instruction. Classes are often set up in which only refugee students attend.[17] For many, months or years have often passed since they last attended school because they were refugees or there was war in their country of origin.

alt="Denald Jonuzi and Fatmire Alushi met at the training ground of the 1. FC Nuremberg and talked about their first time in Germany." width="220" height="147" /> Denald Jonuzi and Fatmire Alushi met at the training ground of the 1. FC Nuremberg and talked about their first time in Germany. (&copy bpb)

For adult refugees, a job is a good opportunity to learn German. But not all refugees are allowed to work immediately after arriving in Germany. Residence status decides: Those who receive a positive asylum decision are allowed to work without restrictions. Asylum seekers from countries considered safe are not allowed to work or take up apprenticeships. Asylum seekers with good prospects of staying and tolerated persons are allowed to work after three months under certain conditions.[18] For this they need a work permit from the foreigners authority. First the working conditions are examined and also whether possibly unemployed domestic persons are eligible for the job.[19] Asylum seekers are allowed to start vocational training after three months, tolerated persons from the day of toleration. Regardless of their residence status, trainees are allowed to stay in Germany for the entire period of training.[20]

But only very few refugees succeed immediately in returning to their old professions. For most of them it is difficult to find a job at all.[21] Language skills are often insufficient. Also, the level of education of the refugees is very different. The structural and current political situation in the countries of origin plays a major role here. For example, refugees from Syria generally have a good school education, and many last worked in technical or medical professions. Refugees from Afghanistan often did not attend school regularly and were more likely to work in service occupations or agriculture. Among the refugees from Eritrea are many people who were forcibly recruited as soldiers. Many have probably fled for this reason.[22]

Economic independence

Tasks for the classroom

  • When and how can refugees learn the German language after their arrival?? Collect the most important points on a list.
  • Many refugees want to work as soon as possible. This is not always possible. Why?
  • Why do language skills and a job help them to be part of society?? Discuss in the group.


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