Here I attempt to address the question ‘How much German is required?’ from a varied perspective of mine. Read http://thelanguedge.com/2017/01/02/b1-or-not-a-b1/ and other articles from The Languedge’s blog which offer the valuable insights of many others. It is valid to also say that the contents of these apply more than to just applicants of Hochschule Esslingen.
To know about the admission process at Esslingen, read part 1 of the article from the blog.
Self-interrogation should be step one – always
Firstly, try asking yourself the following questions.
How long do you plan to live in Germany? After graduation, do you intend to work for a German organization? Do you intend to do Internships or apply for jobs here? Do you dislike being a mute participant in conversations/discussions with German speakers? What are your constraints (family, financial, age)? Some of your answers might not be very well formulated. But assuming, things work out. What then? Take a sheet of paper and try drawing a timeline for yourself 5 to 10 years down the line.
This important step can implicitly answer how important is your academic investment in Germany. German is an indispensable tool if one wishes to make the most of the investment.
Within and outside University
While the M.Eng. courses are taught in English, outside the boundaries of the University, one is exposed to a real, living world. The saying ‘Do as Romans do when in Rome’ doesn’t have to be applied in every context. Language is however one aspect where one stands to benefit by applying this principle.
Developing the ability and confidence to use German when needed is vital. This is in turn the skill to speak, write, read, listen and think in German, the last of which is an outcome of the first four. (Note: For ease of writing, I mention only Germany. However, the other neighboring German speaking countries such as Austria and Switzerland are potential destinations too).
The context in which German is learnt are precisely those in which they will be applied fundamentally. Radio broadcasts, Train/Supermarket announcements, Small talk with friends, making appointments to name a few. These day-to-day activities necessitate no more than an A2 in German. As of now, Hochschule Esslingen also mandates only an elementary proficiency. But I recommend you to look beyond the minimum.
Going that extra mile
At an A1 or A2, one is limited to short term exposures. So the brain never trains for long-term exposures such as an extensive discussion or a newspaper article. Individual words can be made out but not the entire content. Of course, unlike in a language classroom, body language and facial reactions are added inputs but only of limited help. So one may feel left out.
Language learning needs time and sincere efforts. It maybe challenging at the start, but it is worth the efforts and will reward in the long-run. Staying long enough in Germany (say 5+ years) or even as part of a German organization back in your homeland means your investment will reap rewards.
From reading job postings, newspapers & technical material and writing applications to handling entire interviews and technical discussions in German, a professional career can benefit from advanced proficiency.
My Personal Experience & Tips
The process of language learning has two phases. The first ‘incoming’ phase is where one has to listen and read a lot to associate letters (basically shapes), sounds, words, sentences, passages, lectures to ideas, content and grammatical structure. The next ‘outgoing’ phase is where one begins to express oneself in the form of speech and writing. A word and a structure that has not been encountered by the mind (by listening or reading) cannot be used. So, step 1 is exposure.
A few of my attempts include
- Reading technical text books (relevant to classroom lectures). Parallel learning of subject and technical terminologies (Helped in interviews and writing applications)
- Attending local talks & discussions regularly. Up to 2+ hours of German listening at a stretch
- Learning a new language (in my case, Chinese) with German as language of instruction. At times, by learning new German words, I was learning 2 languages in one course
- Deducing meaning of phrases/words from contexts and ALMOST NEVER using Google translate
- Reading multiple newspaper articles and jokes in German. Humor is a great tool to enjoy language learning
- Wherever possible, choosing German as my first option (like local tours)
- All thesis and job applications entirely in German
- Gradually phasing out English in interviews.
Conversing in German confidently made positive impressions with my interviewers, in every case it was openly appreciated and I also received an offer from the company. By knowing how long the candidate is living in Germany, the interviewer can do a quick math about the level of efforts one has made in achieving the fluency. This can be interpreted as an individual’s commitment in his/her task and can have an effect in the interview’s outcome.
Of course it is possible to shape a career with limited German. But one’s luck may be limited and thus may have to search longer, having to spend out of one’s pocket or losing valuable time.
In terms of levels, a B1 offers much needed German Grammar and might be sufficient, but at a B2 or more, one breaks free mental barriers and is limited by one’s own creativity and starts to think in German. However, not everything in reality may agree with one’s certificates. So one should aim for real confidence in the language.
This earlier article from me offers some insight (definitely not exhaustive) into learning German in Germany.
While learning German in Germany is easier with the whole country becoming a classroom and almost everyone a language teacher, one should try to do as many possible levels back home. Might make a difference in time and money invested.