Do You Need To Know German To Live In Germany?
Last updated: 14 April 2020 / by Jack Harper
It is the question everyone asks when they consider a move to another country: do I need to learn the language?
In many cases, it is entirely possible to get by without doing so, especially if your first language is English. But there’s no denying that life becomes infinitely easier once you have even a basic grasp of the local language, as is undoubtedly the case in Germany.
Yes, you can survive in Germany without knowing German. However, your options when it comes to work, studying, and socializing are greatly limited if you can’t distinguish your Guten tag-s from your Auf wiedersehen-s. Learning German unlocks a world of potential.
With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU, Germany has a thriving economy with a constant flow of jobs for which you can apply. As a foreigner, there are a few avenues of work that you can consider if your German is limited at best.
Berlin and Munich are international hubs, both socially and professionally.
Due to the high number of internationals living there, there is usually a lot of English speaking jobs available.
The majority of these will be in the hospitality sector and predominantly part-time. That said, several other start-ups or international companies will be on the look-out for full-time English speakers. You can learn more about English-Speaking Jobs in Berlin and the Rest of Germany here.
Your chances of finding a job in Germany will significantly increase if you have a highly demanded skill.
There is a shortage of skilled workers in various professions throughout Germany, including engineers, IT specialists, and health and social workers.
If you have a qualification that is recognized by Germany, then your skills could be in high demand, and you may secure work with even just a basic grasp of the language.
Beyond that, the chances of finding work without sound knowledge of German start to diminish. Any ‘normal’ job is likely going to involve communication with colleagues, clients, and suppliers, and most companies would be reluctant to hire non-German speakers.
English speaking jobs do exist in the bigger international companies, but these positions are highly sought after and receive a large number of applicants.
Even if the job doesn’t require you to speak German, your chances of landing the role will double if you can demonstrate German ability.
If you can reach a B2 level of German, then the doors really start to open up. Any company that is tolerant of non-native speakers will take you in knowing that you’ll continue to learn on the job.
Whether you intend to learn German or not, you’re going to need a CV that’s built for the working world of Germany. Feel free to check out our guide on how to write a German CV.
If you are a student, there are few better places in the world to study than Germany.
Why? Because it’s free (except for the private universities), for everyone.
Germans generally believe that free access to higher education encourages long-term economic growth and that education should not be treated as a commercial product.
German universities also happen to be among the best in the world, offering first-rate education.
The catch is that all studies must be completed in German, and you must, therefore, have a solid grasp of the German language. International students must pass a language proficiency test before they are enrolled.
No matter where you’re from in the world, learning German will give you access to one of the most affordable and high-quality higher education systems in the world.
The level at which you can navigate the everyday interactions of German life without speaking the language is a little harder to define.
It depends on the individual. You have to ask yourself: How comfortable am I not being understood, or not understanding the majority of what is being said around me?
No matter how independent we are, we must sometimes be reliant on others to gain information. Even a simple inquiry can be next to impossible if you don’t know the words – arms waving and odd gestures can only get you so far, and no one enjoys resorting to Google translate.
Not being able to express yourself is one thing, but not understanding others is quite another. Being surrounded by indiscernible conversation can quickly cause a sense of unease.
If someone is trying to tell you something that seems important, but you do not understand, it can be very frustrating for everyone involved. It might not happen often, but situations like this can be very stressful for many.
Simple tasks become a mammoth chore when you don’t know the language.
Take shopping, for instance. Many supermarkets don’t display English descriptions on their groceries, meaning you can easily mistake shampoo for shower gel.
Reading letters and dealing with government documents will also be a real struggle, and you might miss something of particular importance.
And yet, many people have lived in Germany for many years without learning much of the language, and they seem to do just fine.
Places like Berlin are particularly accommodating to non-German speakers, being home to vast communities of expats who share a common language. Theoretically, you could live within these communities and never have to utter a single word of German.
It’s also true that many Germans speak good English. Some of them may enjoy speaking English and will be glad for the opportunity to practice it.
However, if you’re moving to Germany, the chances are that you want to experience Germany.
Living and interacting with Germans in their native tongue will prove to be an enriching experience, earning you greater respect among your German peers. If local tries to speak to you in English, it’s worth politely asking if you can speak in German so that you can practice.
It won’t happen quickly, and it will require a certain level of patience and persistence, but learning German is absolutely, 100% worth the time to make the most out of life in Germany.
There are many ways in which you can learn German, including Integration Courses and language apps, which you can learn more about here.
Though it is possible to live a life in Germany without speaking German, there’s no denying that you will get a limited experience at best.
The full potential of German life is unlocked by learning the language.
Job prospects increase dramatically, access to first-rate education becomes readily available, and the daily interactions of life will prove to be altogether more enjoyable.
Take the time to learn German, and the rewards will, quite literally, speak for themselves.