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The use of the portal in the pre-integration
Mein Weg nach Deutschland – the web portal for migrants

The face of a young dark-haired woman can be seen in the sunlight in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
© Alina Holtmann / Maridav

Practical information on everyday life and the workplace in Germany, exercises to practise German language skills, help and advice for all life situations – anyone who hopes to migrate to Germany or has recently arrived there can find support at goethe.de/mwnd. The staff at local Goethe-Institut offices show migrants how they can make use of the transition period from the country of origin until their arrival in Germany and access the available services by themselves.

By Janna Degener-Storr

Whatever the nature of their own individual journey to Germany, they do not have to tread this path alone. Mein Weg nach Deutschland, MWnD for short, is the name of a website provided by the Goethe-Institut, which features a wide range of free services in simple German and 29 other languages. Migrants can visit www.goethe.de/mwnd, where they will find content including films, exercises, games and audio clips to practise and improve their German skills, a collection of easy-to-understand information on everyday life and the workplace in Germany, as well as useful addresses, dictionaries and a link to the online advisory service offered by the Jugendmigrationsdienste (Youth Migration Services; JMD)  as well as the migration advice for adult immigrants.

A portal for all phases of migration

The portal was originally developed in 2013 for people who had already attended a German course in their country of origin and were due to start their integration course after their arrival in Germany. The website was set up to provide them with a useful way of bridging the transition period between departing from their country of origin and arriving in Germany, during which they could maintain and expand upon the German skills they had already whilst independently preparing themselves for life in Germany. However, migrants who have already been living in Germany for a while are also accessing the service. And it’s a helpful guide for people who want to prepare for travelling to Germany whilst still in year home countries as well. Julia Wecker, who is responsible for MWnD at the Goethe-Institut head office in her role as project coordinator, says: “From the very beginning we have been in dialogue with our colleagues from pre-integration who prepare migrants for their relocation while they are still in their home countries. They help us to adapt the content of the website to the needs of the target group.”

Members of the pre-integration team at the different Goethe-Institut locations are eager to refer those seeking advice to MWnD, not just in their publications and guidance, but also in the wide range of informative events, workshops and seminars held there. “MWnD offers exactly the right information and exercises we need for our work. Furthermore, the portal has visual appeal and is well structured, so that our learners can find their way around it easily,” enthuses Sombatua Sihotang from the Goethe-Institut Indonesia, for instance. The portal is particularly attractive in the countries of origin because the information is available in languages such as Arabic, Indonesian and Vietnamese. “Many of our learners who want to travel to Germany as joining spouses only speak German to A1 standard and don’t speak any other foreign languages either,” says Nguyen Thanh Huong from the Goethe-Institut Vietnam.

Researching and learning German independently

In some cases, the Goethe colleagues also offer migrants guidance in how to use the portal. “If we encourage the target groups to carry out their own research on the website to begin with, they quickly come across helpful films, exercises, games and information, which then motivates them to work it out for themselves after that,” explains Nguyen Thanh Huong. Pre-integration employees in the North Africa / Middle East region also consider it very important to encourage migrants to learn independently with the help of MWnD: “Many of the people seeking advice prefer to acquire their knowledge about Germany through face-to-face dialogue with advisory staff or people they know who might already be in Germany. To begin with, they’re scared of reading through information by themselves and doing exercises independently. But even if that might not be the quickest way, we’re convinced that in the long term it’s the best approach – especially as many formalities are handled differently from one Bundesland to another, for instance,” reckons Katharina Karpa, who coordinates the pre-integration project at the Goethe-Institut Cairo together with her colleague Dina Radwan. The top priority for the experts is to know where to source reliable information. Dina Radwan says: “We have to motivate our learners to actually use sources like this. While they are researching the themes that particularly interest them – How do I get a visa? How do I find a job? – they learn from the portal almost in passing which other questions might possibly become relevant later, for instance how to find daycare for their children”.

For example, pre-integration workers let their learners explore the website menu, use information texts as reading comprehension practice or help them work through cultural resources with the aid of video clips. “In the new career training section for instance there are exercises covering finding work, applying for a job and going to an interview, which our tutors can use as teaching resources,” explains Nguyen Thanh Huong. Incidentally, the lecturers who deliver the pre-integration material and German courses at the Goethe-Institut centres benefit from such up-to-date content as well. “Our resources don’t include enough sociocultural and intercultural information. As teaching staff we don’t always have the time to look for additional material,” stresses Dina Radwan for example, who teaches German herself at the Goethe-Institut Cairo.

One element of MWnD is the student-led online course “Mein Deutschlandkurs”, which is targeted at German learners with minimal language skills. The Goethe-Institut Cairo has developed its own online seminar series offering an introduction to the full range of available resources. It’s advertised on the institute website as well as on Facebook. Potential learners choose one of the five categories – “Living”, “Shopping”, “Mobility”, “Health” or “Work”.  In a seminar lasting around two hours, they learn how to register as users of “Mein Deutschlandkurs”, they are given an introduction on their chosen focus area, and they learn how to research the appropriate content so they can find answers to their questions in the course. “It is precisely these initial steps that constitute an inhibition threshold for many people. But if we support them to begin with, our learners are quite happy to continue working with it on their own,” explains Katharina Karpa.

Finding role models online

Some pre-integration centres have also produced a printed publication entitled “Mein Deutschlandheft”, which provides information in the local languages of the origin countries and is linked to the corresponding website pages on MWnD via QR code. “Some migrants access the internet portal using their smartphones. Others prefer to have the booklet in their pocket and look through it whilst waiting for the bus, for instance. This enables them to come up with appropriate wording on the way to somewhere like the civil registration office, or research answers to questions about extending residence permits,” says Nguyen Thanh Huong. Feedback from course participants is absolutely positive so far.

From July 2022, the MWnD team and the pre-integration team at the Goethe-Institut want to join forces to develop a collaborative project on a large scale. Plans include an exhibition with a photobook to introduce migrants, mainly with professional qualifications. For this, our overseas colleagues can establish contact with migrants from their region. Julia Wecker explains: “If migrants come across profiles of people from their own origin country on the portal, it creates the potential for identification with them.” In an ideal case scenario, using MWnD is a motivation factor that helps them prepare optimally for their migration to Germany.

Funded by:
Logo Asyl-, Migrations- und Integrationsfonds