Sprachlehrinstitut (SLI) der Universität Freiburg (Language Teaching Center, University of Freiburg)

Author(s): Frank Reiser
Institution/Organisation: Sprachlehrinstitut der Universität Freiburg (DE)


The Language Teaching Center (SLI) is part of the Philological Faculty at the University of Freiburg and its learning programs make up a portion of courses available at the University. However, in contrast to other institutions at the University, the SLI is for the most part financially independent. The SLI is responsible for the organization and conceptualization of all language courses at the University of Freiburg for students of all disciplines as well as university staff. Currently around 5,500 students and staff attend SLI courses yearly. In addition, the SLI offers language courses tailored to particular disciplines, institutes and faculties. A particular area of focus includes teaching German to foreign students. The SLI also provides a large selection of self-learning materials and technology to learners. These resources are available for use autonomously or in conjunction with a course at any of the four digitalized language laboratories, used by 1,600 learners in 80 courses and by 2,000-2,700 users in the Self-study area.

The SLI is a member of the European Language Council (ELC), the European Confederation of Language Centres in Higher Education (CercleS), and the Association of language centres, language teaching institutes and institutes of foreign languages (AKS).


1.1 Scope of the initiative

In the context of ever broadening internationalization in education and the labor market, the SLI is making a significant contribution to European language policy. It accomplishes this by means of high quality teaching and guidance that systematically enables and motivates students towards multilingualism and foreign language acquisition. To reach these goals the SLI aims to intensify cooperation with foreign partner institutions. The integration of the “Deutsch als Fremdsprache” department has transformed the SLI into a central point of contact for foreign students in Freiburg.

1.2 Range of languages studied

The SLI currently offers language courses in the following 25 languages: Alemannic, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Farsi/Persian, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Irish/Gaelic, Hungarian, Japanese, Latin, Modern Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Swahili, Thai, and Turkish.

Much attention is given to promoting neighboring country languages - with a special focus on French, given the geographical position of Freiburg, but also on Dutch and Polish - and to regional languages such as Alemannic.

Most courses of study at the University do not require students to learn a specific foreign language. Thus students are free to choose from any language course offered. Due to the high percentage of foreign students, German language courses are the most commonly attended, followed by English, Spanish and French.

1.3 Learning outcomes

At the end of 30 units learners undergo formal testing in which their writing, reading, speaking and listening skills are assessed according to the CEFR. Specialized courses serve to enhance participants’ communication skills both in terms of professional and academic proficiency. This is best illustrated by courses like “Reading and Writing Skills for Academic English”, “English for Students of Law”, or “Wissenschaftssprache Deutsch: Jura/Wirtschaft/Geschichte/Politik” (Academic German: Law/Economics/History/Political Science).

The language-module structure allows students to reach various CEFR levels. A placement test is used to place students in appropriate courses at varying levels. Classes for the most sought-after languages usually cover CEFR levels from A1.1 to B2.2.

1.4 Practical realization

The core strategy of the SLI is implemented by utilizing the following activities and teaching programs:

  • General language courses up to Level B2 during the semester and university breaks;
  • Specialized language courses, focusing on academic topics as well as professional and curriculum oriented subjects (e. g. “English for Medical Students”);
  • Preparation courses for standard international language tests and certificates (IELTS, TestDaF);
  • The International Language Course program (i.e. intensive German courses for foreign students of all disciplines and language levels during university breaks) that combines academic instruction and tourist activities (see separate case study);
  • Language courses that focus on soft skills for bachelor and graduate students;
  • Networking on a national and international scale (ELC, AKS, CercleS);
  • Promotion of autonomous learning through provision of web-based e-learning modules (i.e. as independent units or as follow-up materials for face-to-face classroom sessions) and e–mentoring facilities, with the goal of providing students with lifelong learning competencies;
  • Carrying out quality assurance projects (development of framework curricula, performance assessment and evaluation)


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