Working in a foreign country to improve your language use?
I'm currently trying to learn German to a high enough standard to communicate well with the German part of my family and people I meet, and I'm thinking staying in the country would really help me.
I'm starting a Biology degree in October but I'd really like to go over during the summer holiday next year and stay for a bit.
How easy do you think it would be to get a summer job and do you think it's even a good idea?
Well, if you have time for that, being thrown into the native environment has always been the most effective way to learn a foreign language, I think. When I had been learning German in high school for 4 years, I can say that I progressed the most when we participated in a 10-day exchange with a Geman high school - especially because my exchange partner's parents could speak only German. So yes, in my opinion, it is a good idea.
I know the experience of staying somewhere where I have to talk German all the time will be great for my language skills (and I can go see the cousins I haven't seen in over a year) but it's the finding a summer job bit that scares me. I could save enough to support myself while I'm there if I live as cheaply as possible, but I'd prefer to earn money and be exposed to German people that way as well.
Absolutely. Immersion is a must if you're going all the way with the language and translating articles is far from sufficient. I would go for an internship if I were you, just so it complements your degree in some way and also aids you with language. Make sure you start getting connected with companies early (try LinkedIn) and ask what they require so you'll possibly have a head start when you get there :)
Immersion is absolutely the best way to improve your language skills quickly, at least for speaking and oral comprehension. Just make sure you actually are immersed -- you need to be ruthless about not letting yourself hang out with English-speakers (and about not letting your German friends practice their English with you!).
Does your university participate in the Erasmus scheme ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erasmus_Programme )? This would let you study in Germany as part of your degree, giving you language immersion not only in your everyday life but in your field of study.
Because I'm studying online with the Open University I can spend time in other countries as long as I can get online and study. The thing I'm having trouble finding out about is whether getting a job and living in Germany will affect my student loans and grants. I've sent them an e-mail, though.
I think that the prospects of getting a summer job will vary widely, depending on what city / town your German part of the family lives in. You'd also want to make sure that the main language of the company is German and you'd probably need at least B1 (and probably higher) to feel comfortable working in most environments. If it were me, I'd try to save as much as possible, go over and take a month or two of intensive German lessons to really jumpstart your language skills. For more info on availability of summer jobs, you can try www.toytowngermany.com and search for "summer jobs" in the search box. Also, in addition to LinkedIn, you might want to try Xing since it seems to be popular in Germany.