Perhaps you have been working hard to learn how to speak German fluently. Perhaps you have even been investing in total language immersion by visiting German-speaking countries. If so, you may well want to be able to prove or demonstrate that you have reached an advanced level of understanding intensive German.

For instance, you may be able to speak German fluently even though it is only your second language, but this may not be enough for a prospective employer who has certain boxes to tick when recruiting for a position.

So depending on your reasons for wanting to learn to speak and write German, bear in mind that if your most motive is career-orientated, recruiters will probably require concrete evidence of your ability in the form of an accepted qualification or certificate.

The Many Options to Study German

One of the most obvious routes to any second language acquisition is through studying it at school, whether that is high school, an extra-curricular language school, or a private tutor. Even in South Africa, learners can learn to speak and write German at school and even take intensive German as a first language subject for Grade 12 or matric.

Besides that, there are many options, especially in the larger cities of South Africa to attend reputable language schools where you can learn to speak German fluently. The first step to choosing the right German course for you is to ask yourself a few questions to guide your decision:

  • What is my existing level of capability?
  • Why do I want to study German?
  • Is German my first language?
  • Do I want a face-to-face German course?
  • Where can I study German for first language students?
  • Am I happy to take intensive German learning programmes that are online?

Study German as a Native in South Africa

With so many first language Germans residing in South Africa, it makes sense that parents are keen to educate their children in intensive German. Fortunately, this is made possible throughout several cities around the country.

In the ‘Mother City’ of Cape Town, the Deutsche Internationale Schule (Cape Town International German School) takes students all the way up to Grade 12 and is centrally located in Tamboerskloof which is a trendy residential suburb loved by local Germans. In fact, Cape Town is home to around 60 000 Germans who love the City Bowl, so much so that it is quite common to hear spoken German in busy Kloof street throughout the year!

student writing in book
In South Africa, it is possible to learn German at school. - Source: Pexels

Similarly, there is an International German school based in Johannesburg (Deutsche Internationale Schule)  and this is not surprising given that there is such a thriving community in Randburg for instance where one only has to consider the many German places to eat and hang out like   Seamann’s Butchery, famed for its meat and deli, or Schwabinger Stuben, a popular German restaurant.

And if you are in Durban and wondering where to take a German course as a German native, you could look at the Deutsche Schule Durban, a private school that offers education in the first language German up until Grade 7 for about 150 pupils. It also offers lessons for adult beginners who want to learn to speak and write German.

As a tertiary education subject, German is also available at most of South Africa’s universities where it can be taken as a lead course or as part of a degree.

Fortunately, it isn’t only schools, private language schools, and universities where you could prove your proficiency in intensive German. In fact, there are a number of organisations where you could obtain an independent certificate to prove that you can speak German fluently.

One of the best-known centres for this must be the world-famous Goethe Institute. If you need to demonstrate fluency in intensive German, these certifications are accepted all over the world.

The Goethe Institute

Both the TestDaF geared at students and the TestPro for business professionals examine second language expertise against the guidelines set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFRL).

These official credentials of recognition are usually required for immigration and work visa purposes. If you, for instance, intend to start a business in Germany, you will require to back up your informal intensive German course with a CEFRL certificate. This is also something that is required for university entrance as a foreigner. The Goethe Institute certification is proof that you can study German and have the proficiency to manage being taught at university level first language German.

Interestingly, outside of German borders, the Goethe Institute is the only accepted organisation that is able to administer these exams.

Of course, an institution like this could sound quite intimidating, but actually, it has a reputation for being incredibly efficient and helpful. And when you consider that helping people to learn to speak and write German all over the world is their main aim, it makes sense.

Furthermore, part of this organisation’s mission is to also offer German courses that can even help you to prepare for the exam!

The Goethe Institute is headquartered in Munich, Germany, but offers language courses and certifications in countries all across the world including South Africa.

The International ECL

Not dissimilar to the Goethe Institute, the European Consortium for the Certificate of Attainment of Languages (ECL) also provides standard exams for the languages of European Union member states. But unlike the more exacting CEFRL test, the ECL exam only challenges second language learners at four basic levels:

  • A2-Waystage: this demonstrates that you have the ability to conduct simple conversations that are just beneath the intermediate level, in a second language.
  • B1-Threshold: in this category, you would need to demonstrate more than a simple conversation. You would need to prove that you can negotiate daily transactions and form complete sentences, even though you are allowed marginal grammatical errors and incomplete vocabulary.
  • B2-Vantage: if you take this test you will need to be able to expound on a wide range of topics from the arts to business sciences.
  • C1-Effective Operational Proficiency: if you can pass a test like this, it means that your intensive German studies have truly paid off. Not only will you have to formulate ideas and express them, but you will be required to do so with little to no grammatical and vocabulary deficiency.
pencils and notebook
Taking a test to demonstrate your German proficiency can enhance your career prospects. - Source: Pexels

Like other language proficiency tests, the ECL tests competence in four main areas: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and comprehension.

Note that translation does not feature in a very practical ECL test, knowledge would be tested by your ability to use the language correctly. This is achieved in two parts. First, there is an oral exam that will challenge your listening and speaking skills. Secondly, the written test will assess your ability to comprehend and use non-verbal communication.

Prepare to be tested through two tasks for each of the four skills, which means you will have two writing exercises, two listening exercise,s and will have to sit through two interviews too!


Test Deutsch als Fremde Sprache (TestDaF) is a German test for foreign language proficiency for non-native speakers. It is a standard and common test that is mainly geared towards foreign students who aspire to study in Germany.

It is also widely used for those academics who wish to partner with a German university for their Masters or Ph.D. for instance. At this level, it makes sense that this exam is more involved than the standard CEFRL tests. Accordingly, the levels A1 to B1 mentioned above, which cover the basic to low intermediate language skills, are not part of this test. To pass a TestDaF, you will need much preparation and more than a solid grasp of the workings of the German language.

This is where working with your own private German tutor, like those found on Superprof would be extremely beneficial towards your preparation and ultimate success in passing this prestigious intensive German exam.

Not unlike other language certificates, the TestDaf will make sure that you can speak German fluently by thoroughly testing your reading comprehension. You can expect to be asked to look at three different texts, followed by 10 questions each. At this level, you will not only be expected to demonstrate basic comprehension but also the nuances and implicit information of the text.

The testing of your speaking abilities will be shorter. In only 30 minutes you will have to address seven situations that you might typically encounter at university. This could be a discussion with a fellow student or colleague from your department or research team.

In addition, expect to have to describe a graph, interpret data, formulate a hypothesis and express opinion!

As a South African learning German as a foreign language, would you attempt to prepare for any of this without the expertise of a private German tutor?

Language Proficiency Levels

When it comes to most language certification exams, rather than a simple pass or fail, you will receive a proficiency level based on performance. Typical levels are as follows:

TDN3: this is the lowest level attained, failure to achieve this results in ‘unter TDN3’ printed on an exam certificate. Other levels are TDN4 and TDN5. When it comes to how these stack up on CERFL’s A1-C2 scale, consider this:

  • TDN3 and the lower ranges of TDN4 are equal to the B2 on the CERFL scale.
  • The higher TDN4 to TDN5 ranges equate to CERFL’s C1.

Alternative International German Fluency Recognition

If you are looking for alternative international recognition for your ability to speak German fluently, you could always consider the GCSE Level offered by many UK institutions (WJEC, AQA, Edexcel, and OCR, for instance).

Not only does this qualification provide intensive German skills, but AQA officials, for example, have worked hard alongside educators in an attempt to create syllabi that aim to motivate and stimulate students in a way that is relevant to real life.

To do this, they have introduced a wide range of topics that actually focus on the rich culture that can be found in German-speaking territories all over the world.

At the end of the day, an AQA syllabus, for example, does offer insight into German culture, places, and employment opportunities, but the actual German course examines whether the student has managed to learn to speak and write German.

It’s worth mentioning the OCR German course which is more flexible and can be completed outside of the classroom. This is a good option for students, like those who have elected to completely immerse in the language by living or working in a German-speaking country, who want to test their proficiency in relevant settings.

In more recent years OCR has offered even more flexibility to students by introducing a short course where learners who want to learn to speak and write German can choose to focus on one or the other. In other words, if you feel that you are better at one part, either the speaking or the writing, you can opt to be tested in that section.

Edexcel is another UK based examination board where you could learn to speak and write German through an intensive German course. It too has managed to bring the language to life by incorporating relevant cultural references and themes. The Edexcel content is reputed to be manageable and clear and has been successfully put to the test by both teachers and students alike.

It makes sense that by integrating German culture into a German course that students will be motivated to keep learning more about the language and its history, and ultimately grow in their fluency.

Enthusiasm is always the motivator to increase any passion, and this is true when it comes to the many creative ways available when it comes to how to learn to speak German fluently. So whether that means furthering your education or deciding to travel, there are wonderful ways these days to broaden your German language skills.

AQA too has modified its previous syllabus to now include more social issues, trends, and culture and urban language to its library of literature and media. As a higher-level course, it’s important to note that the AQA German course is more sophisticated when compared to the GCSE syllabus.

Also, AQA progress is linear which means that students write exams at the end of their German course.

The purpose of all of these courses is to ensure that students not only learn to speak and write German but speak German fluently by developing important reading and listening skills too!

Something to note if you are not only serious about how to speak German fluently but also serious about the academic progress of your intensive German studies is to aim to find courses that support your progression. This is why many students who want internationally recognised qualifications attempt to complete a GCSE in their chosen language before moving onto A levels.

WJEC is another qualification that provides exciting courses for German students to build on the knowledge that they have through relevant social, cultural, and intellectual topics. Again, there is a strong emphasis on German culture which makes the opportunities to study German film and literature all the more engaging and relevant.

Regardless of where you are in the world, with the right school or private German tutor, you could find a path that allows you to learn to speak and write German while progressing academically too.

How to Embark on an Intensive German Degree

student making notes in living room
Why not consider an online German learning programme? - Source: Pexels

You probably know that a degree in German could offer you incredible international opportunities. As a subject, it can be taken as a Major, or Minor as part of another course like Business Science for instance.

A degree in German will give you the opportunity to study the language in intricate detail. It will also offer you the opportunity to learn about German literature, history, and other important cultural elements that have helped to shape the language into what it is today.

University-level degrees in German range from being able to obtain a BA right up to a Masters level degree (MA). In South Africa, most BA courses last three years, but of course, if you want to study German at university level, it makes sense to try and do this in Germany right? In that case, be prepared to spend four years on your BA.

Check out this important Complete University Guide for more educational information about studying German in countries around the world. Outside of Germany, famed academic establishments for learning the German language include Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, and Bristol.

If you are on a German course with a view to attaining one of these certifications, do not be intimidated by the sound of any of this, with the right private tutor to guide you, you could breeze through any of these tests. Not only that, but remember that regardless of how proficient you are in a language, the acquisition of such certifications is extremely useful.

Reasons for Language Certifications Even if You Speak German Fluently

If you already have your BA Honours, for instance, and want to work towards a teaching qualification, passing a TestDaF would be perfect for you.

Or perhaps you are fortunate enough to be invited onto an Erasmus exchange programme. While an illustrious learning programme like this would look good on any CV, adding a TestDaf certification to prove your German language competency will certainly put you ahead of the pack when it comes to today’s highly competitive job market.

The International Baccalaureate

You may have heard of Marie-Therese Maurette who formalised educational methods for peace. As the leader of the International School of Geneva where worked for 25 years, her pedagogy was based on openness, respect, and international perspective.

Her teaching philosophy became so renowned that UNESCO requested that she publish her outline of it for the rest of the world. Bearing all this in mind, it is not surprising that the International Baccalaureate with its foundations in Maurette’s ideology is the crème de la crème of educational certification.

Consisting of four levels, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, which is an internationally recognised qualification for university entrances around the world, starts with students who are as young as primary school children. It finally splits into two paths, the Diploma programme or career-related programme.

The Diploma programme has proven to be a valuable opportunity for certifying the 16-19-year-old age group who learn to speak and write German.

Known to be more challenging than A-levels, this programme assesses the student’s competencies across six subjects and three important requirements. These include:

  • The theory of knowledge: a 100 course that culminates in a 1600-word thesis or essay that presents their conclusions.
  • Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS): a practical aspect of the programme where students are required to focus on civic duty and personal growth.
  • An extended essay: this results in a 4000-word essay prepared from a topics list and the student’s own independent research.

But what has any of this got to do with your intensive German course? Well, the second of the six subjects is actually Language Acquisition. The first is actually Language Studies and Literature in your first language.

Furthermore, you could choose to test at a standard or higher grade. The main difference between these two would be the first and second language literature that you would study as text. Either way, both levels are highly regarded, but how could an International Baccalaureate really add to your career?

Apart from expanding your analytical thinking capabilities, this prestigious degree sets the tone for becoming a better international citizen. It also most definitely certifies all the effort you have put into how to learn to speak and write German at the highest level. This is a qualification that comes with much prestige and will certainly open doors at many international universities, not to mention opportunities within your future job market.

If you desire to study German at the utmost level possible, then these are some of the milestones you should consider. All the best for your exciting linguistic journey into the fascinating world of German.

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.