Frequently Asked Questions about our German Classes
We put a lot of thought into every aspect of our language school in order to provide you with the best experience. Find out more about why things are a little bit different at Expath, whether you're taking an in-person or online course.
What makes Expath's classes different?
Where to begin? To start with, our school was founded by language teachers - not businesspeople. As such, the quality of the lessons and our teacher development have always been central to what we do here. Our courses feature some of the quickest progression from level to level (e.g. A1.1 in just two weekends), and our small class sizes (average of 8 students), excellent locations (Mitte & Neukölln), as well as our fun and motivated teachers put Expath into a league of its own. In a nutshell:
Small, affordable classes
Realistic materials and topics from everyday life
Communicative and interactive methods
Maximum student-speaking time
Quick progression from one level to the next
Outgoing, motivated and enthusiastic teachers
A comfortable setting in the heart of Berlin (+ free coffee)
What if I don't like the class or the teacher? What if it's not the right level for me?
We understand that sometimes things don't work out. The last thing we want is for our students to be unhappy in our classes. For this reason, we offer a complete 100% refund if you let us know within 72 hours of your first lesson (24 hours in the case of our weekend classes). Space permitting, we can also rebook you into a different course, if you wish.
Of course, we don't offer "partial refunds" for missed lessons.
Why do I have to pay at registration? Can I pay later or in increments?
The reason students need to pay right when they register is to avoid what we like to call "ghosts". Before our amazing online booking system, we would frequently have people register for a class, not pay, and never show up - thus preventing other people from joining such a "full" course, which could lead to cancelled classes, or to overbookings if we tried to compensate for the ghosts. Some other language schools make up for this by charging a registration fee (and a very steep one for international registrations) - which we don't want to do. So, in order to keep our class sizes manageable, payment right at registration (online or in our centers) is required - and super easy!
Does Expath offer official tests or certificates?
No. It was a conscious decision right from the beginning that at Expath we would have a school where the focus is on actual communication, relevant topics, and everyday language skills. Having test-based classes adds an uncomfortable dynamic to the lessons, creates conflicts of interest between teachers and students, and dramatically reduces how flexible and class-taylored the lessons can be. So what we have at Expath is students who are self-motivated to learn German for the sake of communicating better - not to produce a certificate. This also leads to much more "homogeneous" classes (i.e. the students all have a very comparable skill level), since the students are self-interested in being at the right level, rather than an unrealistic certificate-based level. Should you need proof that you took the class, we are happy to provide you with a "letter of attendance" (if you actually attended over 70% of the lessons).
Does Expath accept Bildungsgutscheine (school vouchers)? Do the classes work with the "language learning visa"?
No. For much the same reason as why we don't do tests or certificates, we have found that classes that are subsidized or otherwise sponsored leads to less motivation in learning the language than if you have self-payers. For this reason, we have not sought certification to be eligible, and our lessons don't have the required frequency and intensity for the language visa. For in-company language classes (where your company pays for the course) it's a bit different, since the participants freely chose to join rather than their participation be tied to a visa, permit, certificate, or job-offer.
Are Expath's classes compatible with those of other language schools?
Like all other language schools, our curriculum follows the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference), which means that what you learn at Expath in level A1.1, for example, is comparable with the curriculum that other schools have at that level, so transfering from them to us (or vice versa) should be no problem, and our classes also prepare you to take official external tests based on these levels. The coursebooks we use are pegged to the official levels (A1.1, A1.2, A2.1, A2.2., etc.) and are some of the most popular and modern ones published in Germany.
Can I get a discount for booking multiple levels at once, or bringing a friend?
No. This would be incompatible with our 100% refund policy, since this would allow someone to take a level at a discount, and then receive a complete refund for the next level, or if the friend drops out. We realize that other schools have such programs, but we believe the 100% refund policy makes everyone a lot happier.
How much do the classes cost at Expath?
It's very confusing to compare prices between language schools, since some have registration fees (different between local and international registrations), certificate and test fees, value-added tax, different prices based on how many weeks you book, special rebates if you leave a good review on Google, etc...
So we keep it simple: For full-course group lessons in our schools, in 2020 we have a rate of €5.50 Euros per 45 minutes of class time for weekends and evenings, and €5 for mornings and online German classes. This 45-minute increment is called a "lesson unit" (Unterrichtseinheit in German) and is standard in Germany.
We don't have any hidden costs and our classes are VAT-exempt. Course books are not included, but not required. If you don't want to buy one yourself (at ca. €15), we will provide you with one to use in class.
The rates are different for one-to-one classes and external classes. Please get in touch with us for our current package offers.
Can Expath give me the teacher's contact info, and can he/she email me what was covered in case I miss a class?
No, sorry. Due to data protection and privacy, we can't share the teachers' or students' contact information - and for our teachers to provide individual students with summaries of missed lessons quickly amounts to an undue burden in their private time (keep in mind that a teacher can have over 50 students, who each misses an average of 20% of classes). Instead, we encourage students to make friends in class and to ask fellow participants if they could help out in this situation. If you know you will miss classes in advance, ask your teacher in class what will be covered in the next lessons.
How many teachers will be teaching my class at Expath?
Even though there are some advantages to it (hearing a different voice, experiencing different teaching styles), people often don't like teacher-change in their running course. We try very hard to organize only ONE teacher per course. It is not uncommon for there to be two teachers if the course is very intensive (e.g. our 8-unit-per-day weekend courses). Should a teacher be on vacation for a small part of a course, we organize one dedicated substitute teacher for those lessons. It is very rare that we have more than that. In any case, our substitute teachers receive a full handover from the main teacher, and each other, to ensure smooth continuity. It is also useful for you to know that our refund policy also applies within the first 72 hours of a teacher change.
Who are the students at Expath?
Our students come from all over the world and a huge variety of backgrounds. Most of our students can speak English and have a university degree, and many have already learned a foreign language in their lives - though none of this is a requirement, of course, to take classes at Expath. What many of our students have in common is that they are not tourists, but plan to (or already do) live and work in Berlin for at least a year - or indefinitely - and that they are highly motivated and eager to learn German.
What can I do to supplement my German lessons? Should I use an app?
Our courses are designed to be "the whole package", as in, you don't need to do anything other than attend lessons, actively participate, and do your homework in order to reach your level goal. However, it is also true that those participants who actively use their classroom learning in real life (a huge advantage if you're learning German in Germany) become fluent more quickly than those who don't. This does not mean that you have to surround yourself with Germans - since we teach practical skills, very much of what you learn in class is easily applied on a daily basis while you live in Berlin.
We definitely recommend engaging with the course book and its related materials (including its own included online resources, vocab banks, "augmented reality" app, audio and video exercises, etc.) in order to ensure that what you are learning and practicing fits into the course curriculum and does not lead to confusion. This is why vocabulary builders, tandems, grammar books, movies, slow news, podcasts, etc. make most sense once you have a solid base (i.e. after level A2.2).
At Expath, we have three of our own online resources for German learners which we hope you'll enjoy: We filmed an entire, real A1.1 (beginner) German course and you can stream the videos as if you're sitting in the back of the classroom. Also, our eye-opening "How German Works" streaming online tutorial about everyhing English-speakers need to know to understand German grammar, and our German Word of the Day series.
What kinds of methods do teachers at Expath use?
All classes are taught in the target language – German (although of course the teachers can speak English in case you really get stuck). Expath teachers use a communicative and interactive approach, where language elements are presented within communicative contexts, role plays, simulations, games, discussions, brainstorming exercises, etc. We don’t believe that language is an abstract concept to be explained and memorized – we want you to play with the language, try new things out, and learn to speak without fear of making mistakes.
At lower levels (A1 and A2) repetition and drills are key in mastering the basics. At higher, more conversational levels, discussions and creative activities serve to help you apply what you’ve learned in a relevant context. Language elements are introduced, practiced and performed. Expath teachers will give you homework that uses your immersive environment outside of class to practice and apply your new skills.
Can students of a particular course get preference in booking their next course?
No, we can not hold spots for students of any given course in their logical follow-up course. The reason for this is that our course schedule is published many months in advance (sometimes more than a year), allowing anyone to register for classes at any time. This system allows people to book multiple progressive levels at once, as well as compensate for planned vacations by booking their next level in the course following their next logical course. Making special arrangements for students of any given class would mean opening the registration of the next level much too late. We highly recommend booking your follow-up levels in addition to the class you want to take, and not to wait too long. Generally, any time there's a spot left in one class, there will be more than one spot left in the follow-up class. This is especially crucial for evening and morning classes, which are extremely popular.
If a course looks full on the website, is there any "secret" space left? Or a waitlist?
No. The course booking system is 100% accurate with the space we have available and works in real time. Our rooms have a certain capacity and we want to keep our classes small for everyone's benefit. We also do not keep waiting lists (anymore) because they grow very large (typically over a dozen people per course) and are not manageable. Spots may open up in a class if someone drops out, so if your heart is really set on a particular course, you can revisit the booking page and see if something has cleared up, though it's not very likely. Instead, we highly recommend booking your desired course as soon as possible, ideally right when you book (or start) the previous one. This applies especially to evening and morning courses.