As you approach the end of Year 8 or Year 11 (or Fourth Form and Upper Fifth, if you are in an independent school), you will be starting to think about your options for the upcoming GCSE and A Level courses. Those planning to study towards an International Baccalaureate will also be faced with decisions to make.

If you aren’t a natural-born linguist and are struggling to come to terms with the idea of studying and being tested on a second language in the years to come, you may be pleased to hear that German and English are related, with the languages displaying many similarities which can make it easier to learn German as a native Briton. In addition, with grammar that is logical and compound words that are quite quirky, the language is lots of fun to explore.

German is now widely spoken across the European Union and is the official language of Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein, as well as being one of the official languages of Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Most secondary schools in England offer German as one of their Modern Foreign Language subjects, dividing groups of learners into classes, or 'sets', based upon their proficiency in the subject.

German is one of the ten most spoken languages around the world.
German is the official language of Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein and is spoken in Switzerland, Luxembourg and even in Belgium.

Although until recently you would have had to be almost into your teens before being given the opportunity to learn a second language, independent schools across the country have gradually been introducing language lessons for younger learners.

Meanwhile, toddler groups or franchises focused on early language acquisition offer opportunities for youngsters to grasp the basics of German before they even enter the education system.

How A Brief History Of Modern Germany Could Help You To Learn German

When you learn a language at school, like German for instance, you don’t always get the opportunity to learn much in the way of the country’s history or culture. However, should we be learning more about the territories in which the language is spoken, to explore how life has developed a result of external influences?

Seeing as many German students only know about World War II and Adolf Hitler’s ruling during the 1940s because of history lessons, here is an outline of modern Germany and how it came through the unmeasurable suffering that its habitants were exposed to.

As we all know, World War II caused unbearable suffering to German natives and many others across Europe, with more than 60 million killed as a result of Hitler’s nazi regime, which aimed to rid the continent of Jews. The country all but destroyed by the horror, many German refugees had to go on the search for new homes whilst others set about rebuilding theirs.

After the concentration camps were liberated at the end of the war, and following Hitler’s suicide, Germany fought hard to come to terms with antisemitism.

The Allied Control Council split the country into four zones and, in 1961, the wall of Berlin was built separating the East from the West. The fall of this wall almost 30 years later was a huge step towards the reunification of Germany.

German economy saw great success between the late 1950s and early 1960s thanks to Wirtschaftswunder, the so-called 'economic miracle'. During this time, we saw the Volkswagen Beetle emerge.

Both eastern and western Germany joined the United Nations in 1973 and in 1989 the Communist rule collapsed leading way to a pro-unification parliament and the Russians and Allied groups leaving the city of Berlin.

In 2002, the Euro replaced the Deutsche Mark, with this new currency becoming very important to the country as it later decided to bail out Greece in a bid to protect the new Euro.

Finally, in 2005, Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel became the first female chancellor in Germany, and is now on her fourth term of office as chancellor. Germany is now a very important part of the EU, offers great living conditions in most if its modern cities and its language is widely spoken around the globe.

Angela Merkel is the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and has been since 2000.
Angela Merkel became the first German chancellor and still holds this position now. Photo credit: More pictures and videos: via VisualHunt

Why You Should Choose To Take German Lessons

You may be thinking to yourself: what is the point in German lessons when so many people in Germany speak English? The answer to that is that German is the language of innovators, is an important language in academia, the country has a great economy with many companies global market leaders, and, in addition, Germany offers a world-class higher education.

Studying German is of course a brilliant decision for those wishing to move to a German city in the future, perhaps to work for a particular company or to be closer to friends and family.

It is also a sensible choice for anyone who wants to work in engineering (the Germans are said to be world leaders in this field), or at any international corporation (since German is one of the ten most commonly spoken languages in the world).

As we've now discovered, the language is a good investment from an economic point of view, but if also offers benefits when it comes to linguistic and cultural gain.

Remember that, if you study a language at secondary school, you could have the opportunity to mix with international students of your age from Germany and be able to communicate with them and build relationships.

In some cases, you may even have the chance to go on a school trip or exchange to their home town, visiting cultural attractions, learning about how they live and even settling into their family life for a week or two.

Where can you learn German London?

German At GCSE Level

Exam Boards Offering German Language Courses

German at GCSE Level is offered by AQA, WJEC, Eduqas and OCR, among other exam boards. The qualification is designed to help learners to develop language skills and provide activities and scenarios that have real-life relevance. In a recent move towards offering flexibility to students, OCR has introduced a short course whereby learners can either focus on just the speaking part or just the writing part of the course.

While the AQA syllabus offers a bit of an insight into culture, popular areas of interest and study and employment relating to German, the course is examined on the pupil’s speaking and writing abilities. The reformed German GCSE (which is now graded 9-1 as opposed to A*-E) is being taught from September 2017.

School life in Germany is quite different to that in the UK and you may learn about this during your course or on a school trip.
Many courses now offer an insight into German culture and what student life is like in the country. Photo credit: National Assembly For Wales / Cynulliad Cymru via Visual hunt

How To Improve In German Using Past Papers

As with most, if not all other subjects offered by mainstream exam boards, German students can find past papers for their course by visiting the relevant exam board's website. Past papers are a fantastic source of revision as they allow you to learn about what kinds of questions you will be faced with when it comes to your exam, and let you practice exam techniques so that you are as prepared as can be by the assessment period.

In addition to past papers, be sure to cast your eye over the mark schemes so that you can fully understand what the examiner will be expecting from you.

German At A Level

All of the same exam boards offer German at the higher levels of AS and A Level, and these will follow the standard exam structure in terms of assessment for the unforeseeable future (i.e. being graded from A*-G).

Using Past Papers To Improve Exam Technique

As with GCSE, A or AS Level German exam papers from previous years can be downloaded by going to the dedicated area on your exam board’s website. Alternatively, your teacher may offer you a series of papers to attempt either in the classroom or at home.

If completing past papers at home, you must ensure that you try your hardest to recreate exam conditions, which means no interruptions, no disallowed materials and a strict time limit.

Learn German Online With Online Revision Materials

The best way to revise for any language is to immerse yourself in it, so if you don’t have the luxury of being able to visit Germany during the holidays, nor any family or friends in the country with whom you can practice speaking with in writing and over the phone, the best way to approach your revision is to read as much as you can in German, watch TV programmes on YouTube and seek help from other online materials.

BBC Bitesize is a great tool for students revising for a GCSE in German as it offers help divided into clear topics: Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing and Grammar. Thanks to this categorisation, students can pick and choose which areas they focus on led by what they feel they need to improve on.

As an example of the type of content you might find on this platform, the Speaking section has subcategories covering Me, Travel, Work and Home, all of which would help you get by as a beginner visiting Germany.

GermanRevision.Org, meanwhile, is a website dedicated to German revision for KS3 through to KS5. As well as offering key areas of revision, like Out and About, it features Grammar and Vocabulary help as well as useful guides to download and complete in your own time.

Finally, to make revision a little bit more fun, a site called German-Games.Net has been developed to provide puzzles, games, lessons and tests for free online. The website boasts fun activities for beginners of all ages plus a range of tutorials designed to help you through the learning and revision processes.

Find out more about learning German online.

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Laura is a Francophile with a passion for literature and linguistics. She also loves skiing, cooking and painting.