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Projects with refugees
The refugee crisis is one of the chief challenges of our times. The Goethe-Institut plays a part in the integration of refugees in Germany and, in cooperation with partners, has also been organizing various cultural and educational programmes in the regions of origin, for example in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon and in a number of cities in Turkey, since 2013. The different projects are presented in reports and interviews here.

Phrasebook for Refugees: First Steps, First Words

The new phrasebook is available in print and as a PDF at | Photo: Cordula Flegel
The new phrasebook is available in print and as a PDF at | Photo: Cordula Flegel

Language is essential, which is why the Goethe-Institut created a phrasebook especially for Arabic-speaking refugees. The booklet is meant to help newcomers when taking their first steps in Germany. The friendly title is “Willkommen!”

You may have experienced it while on holiday. In a country where the language is completely unfamiliar to the traveller, speechlessness can at times be misinterpreted as unfriendliness. Simply because you don’t know how to say “Hello,” “Pardon me” or “Is this the right place?”

When communication is initiated in spite of a lack of language skills, no matter how broken, bumpy or stumbling the attempts may seem, things are completely different. Language comprehension, no matter how imperfect, generates friendliness and closeness.

For this reason, the phrasebook for refugees published by the Goethe-Institut is more than just a pocket vocabulary book: it’s a companion that will stand by refugees as they take their first steps in Germany and into the German language. The phrasebook bears the simple name Willkommen! and was written for Arabic-speaking refugees who have just arrived in Germany and have no German language skills.

On 96 pages, the booklet conveys simple expressions and phrases and their meanings in Arabic. It begins with “yes,” “no,” thank you,” “please,” and “good morning” and ranges all the way to “Would you repeat that, please?,” “I’m pregnant” and “I need to top up my prepaid card.”

Communication is more than an exchange of information

Anna Dimitrijević, project consultant for pre-integration and transition management at the head office of the Goethe-Institut in Munich, devised the phrasebook. “When we were developing the idea, there was nothing of its kind,” she says. “Since teaching language is one of the focuses of the work of the Goethe-Institut – also for the migrant target group – it was only natural to offer something right here in Germany to help people with their initial orientation.”

The phrasebook is a handy postcard size and is condensed to focus on the essentials. It lists practical expressions and phrases for refugees in the five sections Starting Out, Numbers Letters Time, Orientation, Germany and Me and Communication.

In its production, Anna Dimitrijević and her staff attached importance to also including a little linguistic affability and finesse. Communication is, after all, not just the practical exchange of information, but in the best case, of amicability. It’s embarrassing to be unable to say “I’m sorry” when you’ve stepped on someone’s foot. And it may sound impolite to just blurt “What?” rather than “Would you repeat that, please?”

50,000 copies of the “Willkommen” phrasebook are being distributed in the reception camps for refugees. Over the course of the year the contents of the booklet will also be integrated in the Goethe-Institut’s vocabulary learning app.

Goethe-Institut programmes for refugees and volunteers at a glance

Willkommen phrasebook (level A1)
Pocket-sized German-Arabic phrasebook for absolute beginners offering initial linguistic orientation in Germany with basic vocabulary and brief dialogues
You can download the phrasebook here
For details, contact:
Ankommen app

Together with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the Federal Employment Agency (BA) and Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), the Goethe-Institut developed this multilingual learning and services app, which is unique nationwide. Users can use it to find information about work and education in Germany, about the asylum procedure and a free basic language course.
Cinemanya film case

In the film case, the Goethe-Institut offers German films with Arabic subtitles or dubbed versions for educational work with refugee children and teens.
For details, contact:
Mein Weg nach Deutschland (level A1)

Online portal in 16 languages with self-learning programmes, videos and information about subjects such as work, education, health and basic rights. Content relevant to refugees will soon be added to the web portal and it will be translated into Kurdish and Tigrinya.
Vocabulary training app (from level A1)

This interactive vocabulary app offers the entire examination vocab for level A1 translated into 16 languages. The app can be used offline on Android and iOS.
Stadt der Wörter (level A1)

Vocabulary app for absolute beginners to playfully learn German
Deutsch für dich (levels A1-C2)

Here, learners will discover multimedia exercise materials on a variety of subject matter. Using a filter, they can find material for specific levels and topics. There are extensive opportunities to share in the forums with over 120,000 registered users worldwide.
Erste Schritte auf Deutsch self-learning programme (level A1)

Based on a proven progression, learners can work their own way through initial linguistic fundamentals supported by multimedia input and a wide variety of exercises on the Goethe-Institut’s learning platform in order to be able to manage everyday life in German.
Deutsch am Arbeitsplatz (level A1-B2)

This online platform offers exercises about German on the job while interviews and films offer insights into working day life in Germany.
Webinar for volunteers
With this series of six webinars, people with no prior experience who wish to help newcomers to Germany learn German can obtain tips and aids easily from home and become familiar with suitable German learning materials.

January 2015

On The Latest at Goethe you can find more features, reports and interviews from around the world.

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