German Language for Business and Employment

If you type ‘business German courses’ into Google or any of the major search engines you will mostly find commercial (meaning paid) courses that specialize in German for business communication. You will notice that there aren’t too many web resources to help you practice your business German language skills for free. Teaching German language for business is a real business. Luckily enough, you can use plenty of free web resources that teach German for general purposes. When it comes to getting to grips with business German (or German knowledge needed at a workplace) you normally only have to take a few additional theme-specific lessons and that shouldn’t cost you a fortune. The most time-efficient option for busy people who cannot attend class lessons is to find a private German teacher for online tutoring. They will be able to provide tailor-made lessons on business topics you want to focus on.

Although the free learning materials for business German are hard to find, there are some. Below you will find a list of free Internet resources that may help you improve your business German communications skills or help you learn vocabulary necessary for a German-speaking job. Keep in mind though that your general German language skills should be at least at level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) before you get on with business German.

Free Courses for Business German

  • WirtschaftsDeutsch.de is a large collection of materials related to teaching business German, though not all of them are learning materials. Most of these materials can be downloaded either as PDF files or MS-word documents. In addition to numerous freely downloadable vocabulary-building materials, there are also interactive online exercises and assessment tests. This is one of the most comprehensive free web resources for teaching various aspects of business German.
  • Marktplatz from Deutsche Welle is a free online course dedicated to business German, consisting of 26 lessons that will teach you German phrases and expressions needed to do business in German-speaking countries. You can choose between bilingual (English/German) and German-only version of each lesson. All lessons can be downloaded for free as PDFs. In addition, this course is also available as a podcast that you can download to your mobile device.
  • Deutsch am Arbeitsplatz from Goethe Institute is a set of free interactive practicing materials you can use to train your German language skills for work-related situations. There are 45 general exercises (they include topics like business correspondence, applying for a job, making presentations, etc.) and 122 exercises under specific categories such as social work, science and technology, office management, services, culture and trade. The difficulty level varies between A1 and C2.
  • German Culture and Language Coaching is a youtube channel from Kirschner Communications TV where you will find a playlist of 31 videos called “German Business Language Videos”. This playlist is dedicated to practicing specific German communication skills that can be used in a variety of practical situations when doing business in Germany.
  • IWDL.de, which stands for “ich will Deutsch lernen”, is a portal supporting the integration of immigrants in Germany developed by the German Ministry of Education and Research. You can access the learning materials as a guest but to fully benefit from all features and functions of the site you will need to register (registration is free for everyone). Once inside, look for the category “Beruf” where you can find free exercises to practice your German language skills related to business and employment (B1 level).
  • Englisch-Deutsch Vokabeltrainer (English-German vocabulary trainer) enables you to practice your business German vocabulary online by answering multiple choice questions. This is an interactive tool, so if you make a mistake you will be asked the same question again later to make sure you eventually get it right.
  • Key German Phrases from bab.la is a list of several dozen essential German phrases and their English translations (or equivalents) commonly used in business correspondence. You can refer to this list when writing emails to your German business partners.

Language Certificates for Business German

Some learners may also need an official proof of German language proficiency for doing business with German-speakers or for a German-speaking job. The most widely accepted German language certificates include:

  • Prüfung Wirtschaftsdeutsch International or PWD (International Test for German Business Language Skills level C1)
  • Zertifikat Deutsch für den Beruf or ZDfB (Certificate German for Employment level B2)
  • BULATS Deutsch für den Beruf (German for Employment by Business Language Testing Service)
  • Telc Deutsch C1 Beruf (telc German language examination for employees level C1)

As you can see, in order to succeed at any of the above exams your German language skills must be at the level B2/C1 (according to CEFR). Although for “BULATS Deutsch für den Beruf” no specific level has been defined, it is unlikely that candidates whose German language skills are below B2 would be able to pass the exam. If you need a German language certificate for your job, please refer to the chapter on German language proficiency exams for sample tests and practice materials for business German examinations or other standard examinations that may be required by your employer.