I am planning to do my Bachelors in Germany. The subject I wish to do is Math. Most probably, I will be taking a course in German. I wish to ask, what are some tips to make life easier when studying a subject in a foreign language other than the obvious "be good at the foreign language"?

Edit: People! You need a B2/C1 on CEFR for undergraduate in a German course in Germany. The schools won't take you in unless you have that.

  • 1
    Practice, practice, practice?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 22:35
  • 2
    Do you have any familiarity with the German language?
    – cag51
    Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 22:41
  • I'd guess that relations with professors are much more formal than in India.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 22:45
  • 1
    @Buffy: "I'd guess that relations with professors are much more formal than in India." Hmm, wait - from my experience as a German mathematician and from what I've been told about academia and education in India, I'd expect precisely the contrary to be the case (I don't have first-hand experience in India, though). Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 7:04
  • 1
    @cag51 learning for a year. Almost an intermediate level according to cefr
    – Babu
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 7:29

3 Answers 3


I am sorry but I disagree with the first half of padovapadova's answer. Knowing the language before you start is an advantage, but it is not impossible to pick up the language in your first term and not fail the courses (the disadvantage is that you will have lower grades, especially if the teachers are not supportive).

As for tips:

  • Unless you speak the language at an advanced level (C1-C2), you will have a disadvantage, so prepare for it. Do not get frustrated when you cannot fully express your thoughts (OK, this is impossible, you will be frustrated but try not to remain frustrated with yourself). Prepare typical responses for (exam) questions. Prepare for misunderstandings.

  • Avoid your own language, except for contact with family and close friends, and spend time with people who speak your target language. Ask them to speak that language to you (and not English or another shared language).

  • Make yourself home in your target culture: Read children's books, watch movies you already know from target culture, small news items, etc.

  • Local support people: try to join a study group of local students, find a buddy/mentor for incoming foreign students, both to practice the language and to lear about university culture and expectations.

  • Talk to your teachers: discuss your (potential) issues with you teachers, if there is extra help, more time for exams, etc. If there is a programme director, also talk to them.

  • Have fun and a positive attitude. Performing well in a foreign language and culture is tough but doable. And your chances are better if you are enjoying your university experience.

(For the record, I got my degrees in four different languages, sometimes I knew the language in advance, sometimes I was dropped in deep waters. It is much harder than learning in one's mother tongue but certainly not impossible. If learning math in German is what you want, I am sure you will be able to do it if you persevere. Good luck!)


Some specific tips:

Many Germans (especially the younger ones) are quite proficient in English and are eager to use their English knowledge, so it can sometimes be hard for people coming to Germany trying to learn German (friends that came from abroad told me so themselves), as almost everyone will try to speak with you in English. So try to keep your fellow students from trying to speak English with you (as it probably will happen).

Some people trying to learn the language have good experience with a so called language tandem partner, a native German speaker that wants to improve their knowledge of your language. The way this works is that you regularly meet and when it's their turn to help you, you will only converse in German, and they will tell you what you can improve on and point out mistakes. The next time you swap and converse only in your language and you help them. You can find a tandem partner buy putting up a note on the universities' black board (digital or IRL).

Try to find a specialized dictionary catered to academics / mathematicians, as the German you will have learned in a regular course will probably lack specific vocabulary that you will need during your studies. Some universities will also offer German courses for international students (that might be more focused on "academic" vocabulary).


I would suggest that you make yourself familiar with the formalities and culture of German universities. The structure is very different when compared to American colleges.

If the bachelor is taught in German (which is the case for most bachelors) you simply have to learn and improve your German. It might be necessary to get an appropriate certificate of either B2 or C1 to get admission at all.

However most masters are at least partially taught in English.

  • I do know about all of those. I am asking about actual course
    – Babu
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 11:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .