When it comes to learning a language simply memorizing grammar or conjugation rules won’t be enough. What matters is assessing your ability to communicate.

Speaking is by far the hardest part. It will definitely be required if you want to be able to prove not only your knowledge of a language, but your ability to use it to communicate with other people. Certificates are just pieces of paper. Being able to communicate is all that matters. During a job interview, or while sharpening your interactions with clients or friends –  it becomes apparent just how skilled you are in a language.

When I interviewed for companies here in Germany, they appreciated the fact that I had passed a higher level of the German Language Proficiency Test. All my friends who want to work in Germany also have this certificate. So, it can definitely get your foot in the door. Beyond that point though, it’s pretty useless.

A certificate cannot prove that you speak the language fluent enough to interact with German clients, read it well enough to analyze customer requirements, conduct a marketing research, or understand the business culture. A question might arise now. Is the certificate useful for anything other than personal satisfaction? Yes, in a case where you will not be spoken to or interviewed over phone, then you need something to “show“.

Let me tell you that if your resume/CV doesn’t even mention any convincing evidence of your language skills, sometimes you won’t even reach the interview stage. In this case, a piece of paper from whoever saying you attended their classes has a little value but again doesn’t attest any kind of fluency. So, employers might consider this as evidence but it’s entirely up to them, and usually bigger employers as well as accredited educational institutions will see them just like another attachment which must be submitted. As an interviewer, how does one decide between two candidates who appear equally qualified on paper? It is the ease with which you speak, that gives you an edge over the others and makes the native speakers feel that you are one among them.

Now, if you’re only learning a language for fun, or because you want to travel abroad for a vacation, you would probably consider it as a game and enjoy it. This should be the attitude towards learning a language in any other case as well. It’s always good to get someone else’s opinion, so taking an official exam should be considered as an interesting challenge. It will help you assess your progress, can be a powerful tool which can motivate you and help you carry on. But it shouldn’t be considered as the final destination.

I would always tell anyone to just enjoy the process of learning a new language and the target culture. A learner who is keen about the target culture will be more successful in their language studies. The culturally curious learners will be more receptive to the language and more open to forming relationships with native speakers.

So yes, EARN a language certificate, but more importantly, LEARN the language!