PhD studies too short to learn German?!

Are you an international student studying in Bonn? Then you belong to the 13,7% of students who study and live in Bonn and originate from one of the 141 different countries! According to their website, the University of Bonn has an impressive number of international students, which reaches 5335 students registered every year. As a result, the City of Bonn is quite familiar with foreign students, who do not speak German but nevertheless try to integrate into the culture.

The ImmunoSensation Cluster collaborates also with a vast variety of PhD students that originate from different parts of the world.  While in science, English is the predominant language for communication and publishing scientific papers still, learning the German language is an important step for every student who wishes to blend in the German culture.

So why exactly is it important to learn German?

First of all, local people appreciate this gesture and feel more comfortable interacting with international students. For example having a nice conversation with elderly neighbors, who invite you for cookies and coffee in their garden, would be far more enjoyable when the language is spoken!

Second, by learning the local language, foreign students can blend in and some activities are so much easier like visiting doctors, the pharmacy or the city hall which would require some basic German.

How to learn German in a busy time such as during the PhD studies though?

Let’s start with the most fun parts: Learning a language can be productive if everyday activities incorporate German such as listening to German music, listening to the radio and watching films.

I would like to share with you some practical steps:


  • One small but clever tip is to watch movies in your mother tongue and then watch them again in German. This way, the scenes you memorized can be linked to new German words and you can easily learn their meaning. It is important when watching movies dubbed in German language to not use subtitles since your attention can be drawn solely to the subtitles.


  • The same tactic applies for books. By reading a book in English or your native language and afterwards in German, the brain makes the connection between unknown words and their meaning. One of my favorite books to read in German is “Der Kleine Prinz” (“The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). The book is written in simple German and the story is fascinating enough to keep the interest of reading high.
  • An additional tip is to look up the origin of the word when learning a new word. This way one does not need to remember the word by heart but can understand its meaning and root more deeply.

YouTube channels!

  • Furthermore, there are some very interesting YouTube channels for learning German such as the YouTube channel “Easy German” where a couple meets people in the streets of different cities in Germany and asks them fun and interesting questions regarding the German language as well as German culture. The language in this channel is easy on purpose for beginner students, who wish to learn German and learn more about the country where they live in. If you are interested in learning the German grammar, then other YouTube channels offer lessons exclusively on grammar rules such as “lingoni German”.


  • There are also interesting and free apps which can help you to learn German. The app Memrise, for example, is a fun and social oriented app. It does a great job in assisting with German by maximizing the amount of words one can learn while competing with other users or friends for the points earned during the learning period (

German Podcasts!

  • Personally, I have found that podcasts are a really good and efficient way to learn German. One can search for podcasts of interest on Spotify or Amazon Prime. By listening to topics that are interesting and fascinating, the barrier of the language becomes less obvious and new words are added to my dictionary. It is not essential to understand all words that are spoken but the main message that is delivered through the podcast. Over time, you add more and more words to your vocabulary without even noticing.

Practice, practice, practice!

  • Of course, they say repetition is the mother of learning. It is important to exercise the language every day in order to keep the part of the brain responsible for the language activated. Making German friends is a great way of learning the language. By performing fun activities, which require communication, one can learn the language easier and faster.

Uni Bonn courses!

  • Finally, there are courses offered by the City of Bonn and Uni Bonn, which are divided into different levels according to one’s German knowledge. The Volkshochschule offers courses in Bonn and Bad Godesberg from A1 to C1 level which start every 2-3 months. Since there is a high demand for such courses, it is important to always be updated on the starting date of your desired course. For more information you can visit the link
  • As mentioned, Uni Bonn offers classes as well by following the same strategy as the Volkshochschule. The courses are 1.5 hours long and take place twice a week in the afternoon or evening. For more information please visit

I hope all the small tips and advice will motivate and help some of you to start the adventure of learning German while doing great science!

….After all, having good German knowledge helps not getting lost in the streets of country and makes it easier ordering the right type of beer!

Author: Ermanila Dhana