Working in Germany without knowing the language

Job search options in Germany without knowing the language, but with English. Which is more profitable – learning German or improving English.

No German, but English

Finding a legal permanent job in Germany without knowing a foreign language is good luck. The subsequent receipt of a work visa is fantastic! Let’s remain realistic. The article discusses the options when a migrant speaks fluent English and plans to learn German after moving.

By starting to search for a job in Germany without knowing German, the applicant gives competitors an edge. It is more convenient for a German to speak his native language, which means that other factors will be required. The employer will sign a contract with the interviewed foreign candidate if he sees a direct benefit to the firm. An immigrant without a language will have to go with such trump cards as a lot of work experience and lower salary claims.

Yes, having decided to look for a job, an English-speaking foreigner is forced to dump, if we are not talking about a regional “star”. But learning a language at home to the B1 level and then finding a job will take a couple of years. The same 2 years will be required for a migrant to master Deutsch while working in Germany. Raising a salary with German is easier, there will be two options available: changing the company or talking to the boss.

If you decide that English is good enough, and will learn German later, I will dispel any illusions. The language does not learn by itself, you have to study hard in your free time. And English-language jobs in the German labor market are not available in every industry.

But there are still options for moving to Germany for work without knowing the German language.

Jobs without German and the labor market branch

The demand for language skills among employees depends on the brunch. A doctor cannot get to Germany without German, officials do not issue work permits. English-speaking sales and marketing workers are of little interest to employers. The closer the employee’s workplace is to the client, the more important is knowledge of the language. German companies are targeting German-speaking customers – that makes sense!

But firms whose products are focused on the foreign market are also not uncommon. An example is the IT sector. In German IT companies, English is required more often than German. SAP, the world leader in large enterprise management software, offers hundreds of English-language vacancies every year.

Large firms in Germany speak English

Lack of local labor force and globalization are forcing employers to look for specialists among migrants or set up branches in other countries.

In large German companies with foreign subsidiaries, it is impossible to speak only German. Meetings, presentations, internal mailing – English has taken the niche of the main means of communication between colleagues. Examples are Adidas, BASF, Volkswagen. The use of English as the official internal language of the company in Germany allows the high level of German knowledge of foreign languages.

Small firms find it difficult to hire foreign workers. Family businesses grow slowly, with people working in one place for years. Clients are German-speaking and there is no need to speak English to colleagues. Taking a foreigner without a language to a company with such an inner culture is tantamount to hiring a dumb employee. Switching to English in conversations or at meetings is unnecessary stress for Germans.

Jobs in large companies give future migrants a better chance of getting a job without knowing German.

English in Germany

Without knowledge of foreign languages, it becomes more difficult for the Germans themselves! Migrants play an important role in this. There are more and more of them in the country, and communication with colleagues and clients in English is no longer a sign of IT companies.

These are the results of an analysis of 90,000 job advertisements in open sources. In every second German ad, the requirement of knowledge of a foreign language is one of the conditions for a successful interview. In fact, a burgher who does not speak English reduces the chances of finding a job in his country by half!

87% of employers are looking for employees who speak English. The second most important language is French only in 5% of cases, and Spanish, Italian, Dutch or Polish – even less often. Only 2% of jobs require Arabic, Chinese, Russian or Japanese.

In some industries, job seekers with knowledge of English are especially urgent. Two thirds of vacancies in law and science are required to have one. In trade, knowledge of a foreign speech is also one of the main conditions for hiring. Not surprisingly, ongoing communication with customers often means using a different language.

There are few niches left in Germany where exceptions to this rule are possible. For example, the civil service uses mainly German: only one third of job search advertisements contain a requirement for proficiency in a foreign language. English is required only 20% of the time.

It is very rare that a foreign language is required to work as a doctor or in nursing. Only 5% of nursing ads indicate English proficiency. In vacancies for doctors, this condition occurs only slightly more often – in 8% of cases, despite the fact that patients from other countries are not so uncommon.

In modern Germany, Denglish or Deuglish is widespread – a hybrid of German and English. Combined English-German words and phrases appear. For example, Influencer, Blockchain, Crowdfunding, FahrCard, Handy, Kindershop, downloaden, highlighten, outsourcen, browsen, Jobcenter.

Returning to the issue of migration to Germany, the following conclusion can be drawn. To increase the chances of finding a job, a foreigner needs to be proficient in both German and English.

Work experience reduces the requirements for German

A foreigner with extensive work experience is more likely to get an English-speaking vacancy than a university graduate.

Employers operate within a simple logic: if you take a migrant, then who is better than the locals. For the sake of an experienced employee, the communication culture in the office is changing. The explanation “does not speak German, but drags the company towards success” is perceived by colleagues as reasonable.

Yesterday’s student, even with a diploma from a prestigious university, talented, smart, quick-witted, not knowing German, flies past junior vacancies in Germany. For the sake of a junior employee, employers will not change the communication style in the company. And there are enough people “with a crust” but no experience in Germany. Hiring a foreigner when the level of local workers is similar is pointless.

Therefore, novice professionals will have to learn the language up to B1 minimum to move. And for specialists with experience, it is more profitable to bring knowledge of English to C1 than to raise the German language from scratch. Experience plus perfect English is cooler than experience and intermediate English with beginner Deutsch.

For a number of professions, German is required to work in Germany, for example, doctors . Reflections above do not apply to them. Engineers , chemists , programmers are another matter.

Moving within the company

If a person works at home in a company with branches in Germany, then the strategy “to prove yourself at home and communicate your desire to move” is justified. For example, 6 months of work in St. Petersburg Siemens allowed me to receive an offer to move to Germany with a zero level of German.

It is not necessary to look for a job in a German company, although working in a Mercedes, Henkel or REWE Group dealership gives you more chances. But a European or American firm with German subsidiaries will also work. At the interview, you will have to find out whether employees from other offices are accepted for vacancies in Germany.

The employer’s logic is simple: a person familiar with the company’s “kitchen” adapts faster. Spending money relocating an in-house worker is more efficient than hiring outside people. Firms with branches in different countries speak English, so the lack of German will not be a problem.

International headhunters

Recruiters will agree to take not every foreigner to the base. This is an option for rare specialists, “stars” of the profession and top management personnel.

If the recruiter takes on the job seriously, then options will appear, despite zero German. For example, here is the history of finding a job in IT through an agency .

There is no need to get hung up on recruiting firms in Germany. A headhunter office located in London will help no worse than a Berlin one. European English-speaking recruiting professionals have access to job databases in Germany when needed.


A foreign specialist with a level of knowledge of English B2 and above applies for a job in Germany. The prospective immigrant will need a zero-German profession, work experience and the correct selection of vacancies in the labor market.

Anyone planning to leave for Germany on a work visa should be practical in learning a foreign language. If English is at the B1 level, and German is basic, then it is more profitable for an experienced worker to improve English, and learn Deutsch after moving. It is safer for a university graduate to get a job in an international company and study German up to the B1 level minimum.

When starting your job search in Germany, write your resume in a German manner and avoid common mistakes . It is advisable to send letters to employers in German, but indicate in the letter of motivation the level of proficiency in speech and the intention to improve language knowledge after moving.

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Igor Smith/ author of the article
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