Language as the key to integration: volunteer leaders of tuition groups visit Minister for Integration Sebastian Kurz

Federal Minister Kurz: “Language is the key to integration. Those who are allowed to stay in Austria must be offered and accept opportunities to learn German. Through “Treffpunkt Deutsch” (meeting point German) we have created an additional 3,500 places for German language students thus supporting refugees and immigrants in acquiring German language skills. Thank you for all your hard work and commitment as volunteers!” The initiative “Treffpunkt Deutsch” was launched in summer 2015 by the Österreichischer Integrationsfonds (ÖIF, Austrian Integration Fund) and the Ministry for Integration. Some 200 volunteers contribute to this initiative and support refugees and immigrants several hours a week in acquiring and/or improving their German language skills. Since the launch of this initiative, it has thus been possible to create some 3,500 additional places for learning German. All seven Integration Centres operated by the Austrian Integration Fund provide opportunities for participating in such German language tuition groups. On 18 May, the highly committed tuition group leaders visited Minister for Integration Sebastian Kurz: “The voluntary commitment of people in communities, regions and most of all in a metropolis, such as Vienna, makes an essential contribution towards integration.”

Nationwide initiative: improving German language skills, fostering contacts with local residents

Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz pointed out: “In the aftermath of the massive influx of refugees last summer we reacted without delay additional learning opportunities on top of the regular German language courses. At the same time, however, it must be clear: the opportunities offered must also be made use of. “Treffpunkt Deutsch” enables immigrants and refugees to use the time preceding the start of a German language course in a meaningful manner and acquire initial language skills. The tuition groups are an important supplement to German language courses run by professional operators and make an important contribution towards facilitating integration.” Alongside supporting the voluntary initiative, investment into the regular course programme shall be continued: “Only recently we made available another 25 million euros which are allocated by the Austrian Integration Fund. This money is being mainly invested in German language courses for persons entitled to asylum or subsidiary protection as well as in Values and Orientation Courses”, Sebastian Kurz explained.

Franz Wolf, Managing Director of the Austrian Integration Fund, stresses: “The common language is the basis for any interaction and communication. It is necessary for refugees to acquire German language skills and speak German as soon as possible so that they are able to integrate in Austria. Alongside promoting regular German language courses, facilities such as “Treffpunkt Deutsch” are very relevant for refugees as they provide refugees with an opportunity not only to improve their own language skills but also to establish and foster contact with local residents.” The initiative is open to all target groups. In addition to a regular German course, when waiting for a course to start, or in between two courses it provides people with the opportunity to improve their German language skills. In this context, support of volunteers plays a very important role. Therefore workshops, in which professional German language trainers share useful information with volunteers, are organised on a regular basis.

Volunteer German language trainers involved in the “Treffpunkt Deutsch” initiative are provided with a “Lernbox” (teaching resources box)

All volunteers who contribute to the “Treffpunkt Deutsch” initiative also receive a “Lernbox” containing teaching materials tailored to their needs. Alongside teaching material which is also used by the Austrian Integration Fund for those who are beginning to learn the German language and starting to learn how to read and write in German, the box also contains the new picture dictionary put together by the Integration Fund. It assists both German language teachers and students with different first languages in developing a basic general vocabulary of some 900 words. The initiative is directed at individuals and organisations. If you are interested in contributing and would like more information, please visit the website at: www.integrationsfonds.at/treffpunkt-deutsch

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