How to master business German
Published on March 9, 2016 / Updated on November 7, 2022
Business German is a specialized area of the German language, which concerns itself with effective communication within business circles. It is especially linked to the fields of international trade and foreign affairs and has become an important concept in the modern age of global markets and internet-based communication methods.
The study of business German includes specific business vocabulary and terminology, as well as an emphasis on the type of communication skills that are important to within the workplace. By studying business German, a person can become more adept at negotiating, giving presentations, holding meetings and writing reports in German.
While it is primarily studied by non-native speakers, business German can also be an extremely useful area of study for those already fluent in the language. Indeed, by focusing on business German, a German speaker can significantly boost their work performance and enhance their overall employment prospects.
German is spoken as a first language by approximately 95 million people, making it one of the world’s most important and prevalent languages. This widespread usage, combined with the fact that Germany has one of the world’s largest economies, has helped to make knowledge of the language essential to many businesses.
However, while German fluency is extremely important, the business world is full of specific jargon and etiquette, which can be difficult for newcomers to understand. Indeed, even native German speakers can sometimes have difficulty communicating during a business meeting, or carrying out a trade deal, because they will inevitably encounter a number of words and phrases they haven’t previously seen or heard.
As a result, studying business German can provide a significant boost to your career prospects, as your skills will be invaluable to many employers. According to the German-American Chamber of Commerce, as many as 65 percent of companies consider English-German bilingualism as an important factor when selecting a new employee.
Of course, business German can also help in other areas, such as international relations and the highly professional worlds of politics and science. In fact, German is currently the most widely-spoken native language in the European Union, giving it political importance, while it is the second most utilised scientific language.
When learning business German, it is vital to understand that there is a difference between written and spoken communication, as well as between face-to-face and telephone communication.
For example, while it may be acceptable to greet a colleague by saying something like “Hallöchen!” (“Hiya!”), a business letter will typically start with something more professional. One common example is: “Sehr geehrter Herr [name]” (“Most respected Mr. [name]”), which serves as the equivalent of the English “Dear Mr. [name]”. If you are addressing a woman, you should instead opt for: “Sehr geehrte Frau [name]”.
Many non-native speakers dread telephone conversations, but these often follow a fairly standard pattern. Therefore, if you learn a few key phrases, you can usually plan out a business call in advance. For instance, you may begin by saying: “Hallo! Kann ich bitte mit Herrn [name] sprechen?” (“Hello! Can I speak to Mr. [name]?”)
Business German usually requires a more formal register and the German language has a number of formal and informal word variations. For example, when using the pronoun “you”, it will usually be more appropriate to use the formal “Sie” than the informal “du,” unless you are speaking in a relaxed fashion to a co-worker (this usually happens after clarifying whether they are fine with using “du” instead of “Sie”).
English speakers are sometimes surprised by the fact that colleagues do not always address each other by their first names. Instead, it is quite common for co-workers to address each other as either Herr or Frau + their surname – even if they have worked together for years.
A huge part of mastering business German involves expanding your current vocabulary, so that it includes work-related words, phrases and expressions. This is something which may take a little bit of time, but if you already have a solid grounding in the language, it should be fairly simple to achieve.
With that said, we believe the single best way to learn business German is through our online language school. At Lingoda, our lessons focus on written and verbal communication and our teachers will provide you with all the knowledge you will need to succeed in the workplace if you are interested in learning German for work purposes..
All of our classes are taught by fully qualified native speakers and our lessons are completely flexible, so you can learn as and when it suits you. Moreover, we provide our students with official certificates, which are recognized and accepted by employers all across the globe.
To help you get started, we have compiled the following business German vocabulary list and business German phrases, so you can quickly learn some useful words and phrases. For the sake of convenience, we have divided the vocabulary into categories, based on when they are likely to be used within an office.