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I was not born in Germany and neither did I attend school in Germany. My first interaction with the German education system was at the university level. The German education system especially the elementary, mid-school and high school levels remain a big mystery to me. This is partly because every federal state has a different educational system. What is true in one federal state might not be true in another. We live in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg in the South West of Germany. Our neighbors to the East, Bavaria have a completely different system of education. And so do our neighbors to the north. In this episode, I talk to an expert, my 12 year old daughter who was born here and attends school here about the intricacies of going to school in Germany.
What mode of transport do they use to school? What subjects are they taught? How many years do they have to go to school?
Find out from the podcast interview
This is something I wondered about when I first moved to Germany. I imagine that it is a question that gives many of my fellow foreigners sleepless nights. Can one get a job in Germany when they are not fluent in German? The truth is, that German is not an easy language and there are many levels that one has to master before feeling half competent in it. If you somehow succeed in figuring out the random genders of trees, cows and books, you will still be pleasantly surprised to come across a word like this 'Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften'("legal protection insurance companies") or a sentence so long that it could easily go around the world and back. The second truth is there are not too many countries or places around the world where German is spoken. In fact, almost all the 230 million speakers of German live in Europe with small pockets elsewhere. Most foreigners who come to Germany usually have other native languages and have previously only had superficial contact with German. Some of them come into contact with German for the first time. Many of them have qualifications from their native countries usually learnt in different languages for example English, Spanish and many others to name but a few. Almost all of them have dreams of working and earning a living.
I for example grew up speaking English, Luo and Swahili. When I first came to Germany, I could barely speak German. I had an undergraduate degree from my native country Kenya and I of course wondered whether it was going to be useful in any way in Germany.
I realized pretty first the limits of foreign qualifications in a place with a different education system and with a foreign language. I therefore decided to enroll in a German university and luckily got a part of my foreign degree acknowledged.
I eventually successfully completed an undergraduate degree from the German university but before proceeding for my graduate degree, I got a job. My German at that point was pretty decent. Not perfect, just decent but I still had massive insecurities about my German fluency especially when it came to spoken German. I could talk to friends, but I was terrified of not being able to express myself or my ideas in a work environment. I can therefore totally relate to people who wonder about getting a job in Germany when their German isn’t great.
So how do you get a job in Germany when your German isn’t that great? The following strategies worked for me and they might work for you too. They were not conscious strategies. They were more driven by my own insecurities about my German fluency.