Learning Dialects: Potential Aide in the Integration of Refugees in Germany


Will LeviFollow

Faculty Sponsor

Professor Katrin Fuchs


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-3-2018


This paper investigates the possibility of including dialects in German language courses as a method to establish a working knowledge of the German language, specifically aimed towards the integration process of refugees. Since the refugees' needs are certainly different from those of traditional students, it is important to redesign the course structure to better fit their necessities. This is particularly the case because refugees are often sent to areas where dialects are frequently used (i.e. Bavaria and Swabia in Southern Germany), yet they are given no training in understanding these language variations. Simply put, the standard language typically taught in traditional German courses is not representative of everyday speech in these regions. For this reason, it would be practical to raise awareness of linguistic variants. With specific regard to the Refugee Crisis, the main point of this paper is to call for a vocational approach in foreign language teaching to better align the content of courses with the needs of the participants.

Based on a study by Thomas Studer (2002), my personal experiences, and accounts from refugees, this paper discusses the potential value and methodology for increasing dialect competence in a classroom setting. Connecting this to the recurring circumstances for refugees, the question is posed how knowledge of local dialects would assist them in attaining their desired professional and academic goals. This reimagining of the purpose of integration courses postulates an applicable education with a renewed focus on the refugees and their specific objectives.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Will Levi is an International Business / German double major with an interest in fostering dialog across different cultures, as a continuation of his work in the Reutlingen University International Office. The project is an exploration of his own difficulties in entering the German workforce as a speaker of the standard language, rather than local dialect. Will's future goal is to utilize his experiences to better facilitate the integration process for others.

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