Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Last updated: March 2023
TL;DR: You can start studying in Germany right away without spending another year or more to master the language if you choose to study an English-taught course. Cities like Berlin and Munich have around 60% English proficiency, which makes them most foreigner-friendly. However, learning basic German is highly recommended as being fluent in German will give you many more options in terms of university and courses, help you blend in well with the locals, as well as get you employed for part-time or full-time jobs.
In recent years, Germany has become a popular study destination for Malaysian students thanks to its tuition-free education. However, many students are worried about the language barrier and the challenges of learning a new language.
“Can I study in Germany in English?” This is a common question we get all the time.
Yes, it’s actually possible and here’s a link where you can find Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees offered in English – https://www2.daad.de/deutschland/studienangebote/international-programmes/en/
A quick search for English-only Bachelor’s degree courses in Germany yields around 143 results, out of which 71 of them are tuition-free and the remaining involve some fees. This is good news for those who wish to study in Germany in English and want to save the hassle of learning a new language. Not only can students choose courses that are fully taught in English, but many of these universities also offer basic German courses to their students. At these universities, international students can start studying in Germany right away without spending another year or more to master the language.
However, while students can study in Germany without learning German, we do not recommend it for the following reasons.
Students who do not know German will have significantly fewer university choices to choose from compared to those who are fluent in German, simply because majority of the Bachelor’s degree courses are offered in German. Besides, the location of your university is also more limited as English courses are usually offered in bigger cities such as Berlin. Even though there are a couple of English courses offered in other areas of Germany, you must also consider the community in which you live, which leads us to the next point.
While you can expect your professors and faculty staff to speak English, you can’t expect the same from the cashier at the supermarket checkout counter or the barista at the coffee shop. Germans take pride in their language. While they are known to be very accommodating to tourists who can’t speak German, they do appreciate and expect decent German from those who are living long-term in Germany. Having said that, bigger cities, especially common tourists destinations, have a much higher English literacy rate compared to rural areas. Similarly, the younger generation is more exposed to English compared to the older generation. Hence, if you are looking for a place where you can easily order a meal or buy a train ticket in English, the top cities would be Berlin and Munich, followed by Hamburg and Frankfurt. Averagely, these cities have around 60% English proficiency, which makes them most foreigner-friendly.
Nevertheless, German is still the most important language within Germany. If your desired course or university is located in a region with lower English proficiency, you will struggle with your daily interactions, particularly on official matters such as visiting the hospital or government offices. Apart from that, German also comes in handy when you are traveling and visiting neighboring countries. German is the official language in five other countries apart from Germany: Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. Therefore, knowing German can definitely make your stay more interesting and you will be able to get around and make friends with locals.
Many students who are studying overseas will want to work part-time to earn some allowances, and that’s allowed in Germany. Students are allowed to work part-time for up to 120 full days or 240 half days per year. Some just want to cover their living expenses, while others want to gain working experience in relevant fields. However, many employers prefer someone who can speak German. Hence, if you have already mastered German, you will be able to get a part-time job once you start studying, whereas for those who are learning German concurrently with their Bachelor’s degree, you may face difficulty getting a job until you are more confident in communicating in German.
Similarly, after completing their studies, graduates would take the opportunity to work and gain valuable experiences before returning home or furthering their studies. At this point in time, knowing German is important. Being fluent in German is often a requirement in many companies, and it is particularly crucial if your work is people-facing. For example, a nurse will have to be able to communicate with the elderly who will not be able to understand English. Based on our consultation experiences, we have encountered a few German graduates who could not secure a job in Germany upon graduation because they do not speak German. This is such a shame!
You can study in Germany in English. However, having basic German is highly recommended as it will make your time in Germany a lot smoother and rewarding. Probably one of the best parts about studying overseas is experiencing the local culture as raw and real as possible. While you will still be able to finish your entire course in English and live within an English-speaking community, you will be missing out on so much. It is a different experience when you surround yourself with Germans, do things the German way, and are able to freely speak to anyone on the street. That’s the real fun of studying in Germany, isn’t it?