Anda Help Center (FAQ)
Find the answers to your questions regarding different subjects concerning language learning, Germany and other countries, formalities and further points. Many topics will be discussed here including the German language, the city of Berlin, studying in Germany and further categories that may be of interest to you. In case your questions is not answered below, feel free to contact us here.
Is my driver’s license valid in Germany?
If you’re only planning to stay in Germany temporarily (and not to make it your residence), your driver’s license from your home country is still valid. You can drive any vehicles in Germany which you’re allowed to in your home country and you don’t need to convert your license. If you’re moving to Germany long-term however, the rules are different.
Residence in Germany and driver’s license from another country
If you become a resident in Germany, then German driver’s license laws apply. Driver’s licenses from other EU or EEA countries retain their validity, even in Germany. This applies to the following countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the UK, Cyprus, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. Driver’s licenses from these countries are valid even if you have permanent residency in Germany and you don’t need to convert your license into a German one. All associated documents from your home country are valid in Germany. You do, however, have to be 18 years old, even if the age limit is lower in your home country. There are also specific restrictions and conditions for licenses for driving trucks and buses.
A driver’s license from outside the EU or EEA
Licenses issued in countries outside the European Union or European Economic Area are only valid for six months after becoming a resident in Germany. Only in exceptional circumstances can the validity of your license be extended by a further six months. After this time period, you have to convert your licence into a German one, which often involves taking a practical test. Germany does have arrangements with certain countries, which allow you to convert your license without taking a test.
The German language
How many people speak German?
As well as 290 million second-language speakers, the majority of people in the following countries are native German speakers:
- Germany (around 80 million people)
- Austria (around 8m)
- Liechtenstein (around 35,000)
- German-speaking Switzerland (5.5m)
Altogether there are about 103 German native speakers worldwide, 7.5 million of them in non-German speaking countries. Did you know for example that about one million people in Brazil can speak German fluently? Or that roughly half a million German native speakers live in Canada? You can even find Germans in the Dominican Republic, at least 30,000 of them. In fact, there are German-speaking minorities living in 42 nations. Another interesting fact which is maybe encouraging for German learners: the German language has the third-strongest internet presence. Learning German is a global trend, especially in Asia, South America and Africa, where the number of people studying the language is growing. In 2015, more than 15 million people worldwide were studying German at universities, schools or Goethe Institutes. In 2010, only five years earlier, that number was around 500,000 smaller.
Where is German spoken?
Most native speakers live in countries where German is a majority language: German, Austria and Liechtenstein. Altogether this comes to around 88 million people whose culture you will be exploring and discovering when you study German. Germans make up 80 million of these native speakers, Austrians around 8 million and 35,000 German speakers also live in Liechtenstein. However, there are also other countries, where local German-speaking minorities are officially recognised:
- the Czech Republic
- the Vatican City
Of these countries, Switzerland has the largest German-speaking minority, with around 5.5 million Deutschschweitzer (Swiss Germans). Of course, there are also Germans, Austrians or other native speakers who have migrated to a country where most people don’t speak German. Around 3.5 million Germans live abroad: around 300,000 in the UK, another 300,000 in Switzerland, about 180,000 in Spain, roughly 120,000 im Austria. In the US, this figure rises to a million. In parts of North Asia, Eastern Europe and Southeast Europe, German is considered a correspondence language.
Why should I learn German?
There can be many reasons for learning a new language: whether it’s improved employment prospects, following loved ones to another county, or even preparing for a (training) course in Germany. Here are some good reasons to learn German:
German as a economic language: get to know your business partners!
If you work with German-speaking business partners, German language skills definitely give you the competitive edge. A common language is not just a communication tool but the basis for mutual understanding, trust – and perhaps even friendship. In other words, if you want to climb the career ladder, not only do you need to know your field and your business partners, you also need to speak their language, literally!
German as an engine in a global world
Proficiency in German drastically increases your chances of getting a job in Germany or at a German company abroad. Your ability to build (linguistic) bridges will make you a valued team member among global players. And whether you want to work for a international company in Germany or a German company abroad, German skills will be an asset. Especially small and medium-sized German businesses who have set up offices elsewhere place a lot of value on good German language skills and familiarity with Germany’s culture, values and history. But also big corporations are following suit: it is not the case that these multinationals are only English-speaking environments.
German as a language of knowledge: many books are published in German
Everyone knows the important role English plays in universities throughout the world but did you know that German is recognised as the second most important academic language in the world? German-language publications can be an excellent source for enriching your knowledge and furthering your research. It’s also important to bear in mind how much Europeans value their various languages and customs. If you can participate on a linguistic or cultural levels, people will very much appreciate it. Did you know that 12% of all books published worldwide are in German? This strong publishing presence in Germany is another indicator of the opportunities German offers you as a research (and perhaps even publishing) language.
German as a language of culture: forming your ideas and fostering understanding
Learning German is a gateway to an important language of culture: Iiterature, science and politics; giving you an insight to its speakers’ plans, goals and dreams. Language and culture are closely intertwined and this interplay helps to form the way we think. Language has a major influence on our habits and customs, and how we formulate facts, contexts and reasons. This in turn influences our world view. If you’re already interested in Bach, Beethoven, Goethe or Kafka, then take the next logical step: get to know German people and their language too.
What’s the best way to learn German?
There is of course more than one way to learn German. Different teachers, schools and students will have differing ideas about learning outcomes. Students from the West are generally used to book-based lessons: grammar books, course books and texts. But many German learners come from regions where copying information from the board and learning it by heart is more common. Not all students are taught critical thinking or how to expand their knowledge independently. Because of this, at Anda Sprachschule it is very important for us to familiarise our students with our learning strategies from the very beginning and to show them how these strategies will lead them to reaching their linguistic goals.
Learning is about growing and integrating
It’s important to be aware that learning a language is not just a matter of memorizing things. Instead, diving into a language means integrating yourself step by step into a German-speaking environment, culture and history. Learning German helps you to grow as a person and broaden your horizons. New ways of thinking, new encounters, new opportunities, even if they are sometimes difficult – new experiences help us build upon our existing skills. This means that teaching German is also about helping and supporting students in this personal development.
Learning by seeing and hearing
At the beginning, learning German seems like an insurmountable task; you have no idea what people are saying. But if you can see what people are talking about, through pictures for example, it’s automatically a lot easier to understand. After getting used to what German sounds like, you can start to make sense of the phonemes and enjoy making your first attempts at using the language. Don’t forget: the best way to learn a language is taking what you already know and using it with other people, giving yourself the opportunity to build on the skills you already have. After this initial phase, you’re already able to use simple vocabulary and construct small sentences. After that, you’re reading to start talking about things which aren’t related to your immediate vicinity. Your active vocabulary (the words you’re able to produce) might still be relatively limited but you can understand a lot of other words which you can’t actively use (known as your passive vocabulary). There’ll be other words too, which although you don’t understand yet, you recognise from hearing them before. The more familiar the language sounds to you, the easier it will be to improve your proficiency. Part of the learning process is turning familiar sounding words, but which you don’t understand yet, step by step into first, your passive vocabulary and finally, your active vocabulary.
More tips for learning German
Here are a few more useful tips:
- Make a learning plan and get into a regular learning routine.
- Try out your new words and phrases in everyday situations. If you encounter gaps in your vocabulary whilst doing this, you can try to fill these in later with independent study.
- Every time you learn a new noun, also make a note of its gender and article.
- Sometimes it’s easier to understand the connection between words when you can see it – so make yourself a sketch or little drawing.
- Start using German-language media as soon as possible. Watching simple TV shows can be a great start.
How difficult is German?
In all honesty, German can be complicated! Students tend to struggle with the various grammatical cases, the different genders of words, complicated sentence constructions and even the German habit of joining several words together, known as composite nouns. Luckily, the good news is that it’s possible to learn how to do all or the things above.
Here are a few aspects which can sometimes make learning German tricky.
Cases and gender
The case of a word depends above all on its relation to other words and its function within the sentence. German has four cases, which is actually less than Latin! That means if people can learn Latin, German is definitely within the realms of possibility. The gender of words can also present difficulties. Although some genders seem logical: the man is masculine, the woman is feminine and the child is neuter; why on Earth is the sun feminine (die Sonne) and the moon masculine (der Mond)? How come a plate is masculine (der Teller) while a cup is feminine (die Tasse)? It all comes down to practice.
Germans love composite nouns
There’s one thing that almost all German learners struggle with – the German obsession with joining nouns together to create a new one. The example of the Donaudampfschifffahrtskapitänsmützenschild (the badge on the cap of a Danube steamboat captain) might be over the top, but many other composite nouns are used on a daily basis. Das Verkehrsumgehungsschild (traffic diversion sign), der Haustürschlüssel (front door key) or even der Kleiderbügel (clothes hanger) to name but a few. Although these word can seem indecipherable at the beginning, with time you’ll get the hang of it.
Talking about the past
In German there are several tenses for talking about the past (the perfect, the imperfect, the pluperfect). The one you use depends on when exactly the event you want to talk about happened, and in what order. You also need to make sure your verb forms complement the subject, and although there are rules for this, there are also lots of exceptions! Don’t panic though, this is also something which gets easier with time and practice.
The position of verbs in the sentence
Unfortunately German has the habit of separating verb constructions, so one part could be near the beginning of the sentence while the other part could end up right at the end. So “Ich habe gesagt” (“I told”) could become “Ich habe dir das doch vorher schon gesagt” (“But I already told you that earlier”). Or from “Sie hat geöffnet” (“She opened”) we could get “Sie hat mit dem Paket in der Hand, das sie gerade vom Boden aufgenommen hatte, als das Telefon klingelte, die Tür geöffnet” (“With the parcel that she’d just picked up from the floor when the phone rang in her hand, she opened the door”). This means you sometimes have to look in different parts of the sentence to find all the parts of the verb. Although this can be difficult when you’re reading, you can take your time. When it comes to spoken German, again it’s a matter of practice makes perfect.
Dialects, accents and regional differences
Many German learners find if difficult that the letters often sound different to how they would in their first language. As if that wasn’t enough, although students learn Standard German, not everybody uses it. Throughout the German-speaking world, there are regional dialects which can often differ significantly from Standard German. A different accent or regionally-specific vocabulary and phrases may initially seem odd to you. A good tip is to listen carefully to the people around you. Learn Standard German and eventually you’ll get a handle of the regional specificities as well.
Studying in Germany
Are there really no tuition fees in Germany?
For many prospective students, the cost of tuition is an important factor in deciding where to study. Planning how to finance your studies needs to be considered before starting a course. In Germany, you can break down higher education institutes into those which are public and those which are private.
What tuition fees are there at public universities?
In Germany, the 16 Bundesländer (federal states) are responsible for setting tuition fees. In general, there are no tuition fees at public higher education institutes, although there are exceptions for long-term students in some Bundesländer. This means that if it takes you longer to complete your course than the normal course length, you may face tuition fees of €500 or more for every additional semester. Although there aren’t generally tuition fees, some institutes do charge a Sozialbetrag (semester fee), which can sometimes cost several hundred euros a semester. This goes in part towards the administration (enrolment fee, re-registration fee), but also towards the student administration and social welfare organisation (Studentenwerk), which benefits the canteen, the cafeteria, student accommodation and counselling services. AStA, the students’ union, also receives part of this money. The semester fee also often includes a free public transport pass. As each university is different, you always need to check what the exacts costs are.
What about private universities?
Generally, private universities do charge tuition fees, whether for a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD course. Tuitions fees can vary considerably and are usually due before the start of each semester. On average, a bachelor’s course at a private university costs around €520 a month.
How good does my German need to be to study in Germany?
In Germany, as well as courses taught in German, there are also international courses. It’s important to think carefully about which route would be best for you.
International courses: mostly in English
If you opt for an international course, it’s likely it will be taught in English. As a result, in most cases, there aren’t German language requirements. Nonetheless, you’ll probably need to demonstrate your proficiency in the language the course is taught in – usually through a language test.
If you’re planning to stay in Germany in the long term, however, it’s definitely recommended to think about whether you want to improve your German language skills. If you speak German, it makes life and getting to know people easier.
Studying in German
At most German universities, courses are taught in German and the teaching materials are also mostly in German. Having a sufficient level of German is therefore indispensable. In most cases, you’ll need to demonstrate your language skills before the start of the course, often in the form of a test. However, if you only want to study in Germany for one or two semesters, you might not need to take a language test. For more information about this, you can contact the Akademisches Auslandsamt (International Office). The official language test, recognised by higher education institutes, is TestDaF (Test of German as a Foreign Language). It’s possible to take this test before coming to Germany in one of the approved centres in 100 countries worldwide. Another test, DSH (German language test for University entry), can only be taken in Germany. Both of them test your reading and listening skills and your ability to communicate. To be accepted onto a course, you’ll need to reach the pass mark for all three skills. There are however other language tests available: the Zertifikat C2 from the Goethe Institut, the Deutsch C1 test from Telc and the Deutsch Sprachdiplom (Level 2) are recognised and accepted by most higher education institutions. It’s important to check the exact requirements and rules for each institution.
Can I study in Germany?
If you want to study in Germany, there are three important things to consider:
- The visa
- German language proficiency
- And the so-called “Higher Education Entrance Qualification” (Hochschulzugangberechtigung)
Do I need a visa to study in Germany?
Not all international students need a visa. This includes students from the following countries:
- EU member states
- New Zealand
- The USA
- and several other countries
Prospective students from other countries should start the visa application process as soon as possible as the bureaucracy can often take a long time.
A student visa is not the same as a tourist visa and requires a specific application. For more information contact the German embassy or consulate in your home country. There are three types of visas relevant to international students:
- As its name suggests the so-called Language Course Visa (Sprachkursvisum) allows you to take part in a language course or language stay program (Sprachaufenthalt) in Germany. It will not allow you to study at a higher education institution and cannot be converted into a visa that does allow this. As a result, it is not suitable for prospective university students.
- The Study Application Visa (Studienbewerbervisum) is valid for three months and intended for those who have applied for but not yet been admitted onto a course. Once your admission has been confirmed, you can convert this visa into regular student visa. You can do this at the International Students Office (Ausländeramt) at your university.
- The regular student visa (Visum für Studienzwecken) is valid for one year and only available with official admission to a higher education institution. You’ll also need to supply financial evidence that you can fund your studies.
How good does my German need to be?
For all courses at German higher education institutions international students will be asked to demonstrate their German language proficiency (by passing a language test), with exception of those who completed their Abitur (high school diploma) at a German-speaking school outside of Germany. As well as the courses at the Goethe Institut, the “telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule” certificate is recognised by German higher education institutions and fulfils their German language requirements. Anda Sprachschule is happy to welcome you onto one of our “telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule” preparation courses.
What exactly is the “telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule” certificate?
By passing this language test, you demonstrate the advanced German language skills required for the academic setting of a university. The majority of people taking the “telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule” exam are adults intending to study at a German higher education institute (or already doing so) or those intending to pursue an academic career who need to demonstrate their German language proficiency.
What Higher Education Entrance Qualification (Hochschulzugangsberechtigung) do I need in Germany?
The first question for prospective students with a high school diploma from abroad is whether your diploma will be recognised in Germany. This depends on whether your diploma meets the conditions attached to the Higher Education Entrance Qualification. Prospective students from EU member states, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Iceland whose high school diploma would meet university admission requirements in their home country, generally don’t encounter any problems applying to German higher education institutions. Those from other countries are usually required to demonstrate that they have studied for 2-3 semesters abroad. For artistic courses, samples of your work or further tests are sometimes required instead. The DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) has a consultable database of admission requirements, pooling information from 35 countries about which diplomas in your home country meet the requirements of the Higher Education Entrance Qualification. Information about all countries can be found on the anabin Portal of the German Kultusministerkonferenz. Higher education institutions also generally have an International Office (Akademisches Auslandsamt), where you can find out more about the admission requirements. Please bear in mind that each higher education institution is responsible for setting its own admission requirements.