If you’re arriving in Germany as an international student with no (like I did) or limited knowledge of German, this blog post is for you! As an Australian and speaking reasonably good English, I guess I was initially a bit naïve about my expectations regarding the importance of German when beginning the Masters of Finance. But you’ll find that the friendly folks from Frankfurt School Career Services really drill into you the importance of learning the local language right from the start. And, of course, German helps with everything from making a good impression at on-campus company visits to fulfilling language requirements when applying for a position. In the following post, I’ll talk about some of my experiences with learning the language and how improving my language skills allowed me to enter the job market in Germany.
Alongside the language courses that are offered by Frankfurt School, there are many options for German schools in Frankfurt. What a group of friends and I did was sign up for a 5-class per week evening course at one of these schools. On top of our first semester subjects at Frankfurt School, this was pretty demanding in terms of the time commitment required for both in classroom learning and revising; however there is no doubt that, as a group, we progressed very quickly. If this sort of schedule isn’t for you, there are other options in terms of class frequency and alternative opportunities to organise language tandems both through Frankfurt School and various pages on Facebook. And be very stubborn and tough with your German student colleagues and force them to speak German with you as often as possible!
If you’re serious about entering the job market in Germany upon graduation and landing a graduate position here (and unfortunately there’s no way to sugar-coat this), you must have almost perfect German. Going through the usual application channels on company websites where every position requires German, there is absolutely no alternative. Personally, as my German is realistically not likely to reach this level, where I can completely flawlessly apply in German by the time I’m graduating, I plan on applying these language skills as a competitive advantage elsewhere. However, and speaking from my experiences and those of my colleagues, it is definitely possible to succeed in applications for internships and part-time working student positions without perfect German. For the two offers I’ve received since arriving in Frankfurt, I was fortunate that my native English was an advantage (and further on this point, there are certainly job advertisements that call for specific other language requirements where you may also have an advantage). Despite this, parts of my application and interview processes for these positions were in German, and I was encouraged, despite my still developing skills and many errors, to present as much as I could in German before reverting to English. Without any German though, you will find that you will have to pick through the job ads more carefully and, while there are still some good opportunities, they are far less common than those for your German speaking colleagues. I realise that I only just scratch the surface here so, if you have further questions about any of what I’ve written, please feel free to send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org