As one of the world’s ten most spoken languages German is not just limited to Germany. Various dialects of German are also widely spoken in European nations like Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Hochdeutsch, or ‘high-German’ is the dialect taught in foreign nations. You should bear in mind that although Germans with higher level education may speak Hochdeutsch many German citizens (particularly those in rural locations) will speak a very different dialect.
The German language is notoriously complex and foreigners often find the syntax, exceptionally long sentence structure and grammar difficult to understand (and the strong regional accents difficult to get their heads around!) But like all languages it can be learnt, it just requires patience and persistence.
If you plan on living and working in Germany then learning the language will hugely improve your career prospects and allow you to get much more out of the country socially. A willingness to try learning the language of your host nation can also make a big difference to how the locals perceive you!
How rapidly you are able to learn German depends on how much time you’re able to put into the endeavour. If you want to speak fluently constant practice and complete emersion in the language can really help.
Mingling with locals, participating in a language exchange, watching German television and practising with friends are all brilliant ways of using your spare time to absorb and learn. It’s also a good idea to speak your native language as little as possible, the more you have to rely on German to communicate the more quickly you will learn to speak it properly!
Constant practise is fantastic but some people find they can only learn languages with the support of formal instruction.
Many German universities, colleges and private/international language schools offer lessons, but cost and time commitment can vary significantly so doing a bit of research can really pay off. German lessons can also be sought from cultural associations, clubs, town councils and international/foreign organisations.
Private one-on-one classes are often the best way to learn quickly, but these can be quite pricey. Newspapers, public notice boards and word of mouth recommendation are all ways of finding a suitable teacher.
In the end it’s entirely a matter of preference whether you decide to learn at a steady pace over a long period of time or engage in intensive classes.
If you need to prove your proficiency in German then there are several types of certification available including the ZD, DSH, TestDaF and GDS.
If you plan on studying in Germany a passing grade in a standard language test like the ZD (Zertifikat Deutsch) may be a prerequisite.
If you plan on working in Germany then you may want to take the Prufung Wirtschaftsdeutsch International. This specifically developed test assesses your communication abilities within the German business environment.