Month: May 2020

What is “fluent” English?

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Looking for a new job? In these uncertain times it might not seem like the best time to be moving to a new employer. However, some people have been given no choice or perhaps this unprecedented situation has provided people with exciting new opportunities.

This is a repost from 2018 but the information is still totally relelvant and helpful for anyone who is searching for a new job but worried about their English skills. CV and interview coaching is one of the most popular packages I offer, so if you need some support, don’t be shy to get in touch for a free consultation.

close up photo of writings on the paper

Just about every job advertisement you read here in Germany these days contains the words “Fluent English required”. Something that scares the hell out of a lot of non-native speakers. Even the ones who are pretty good at English.

But before you decide you shouldn’t apply for that job, take a minute to consider the following things:


1. “Fluent” does not equal “perfect”.
Nobody is perfect. Not even in their native language. How many people know every single word that exists in their native language? People would consider me to speak “fluent” German as I am a CEF level C2 and can handle every situation from scary telephone conversations with the tax office to nice conversations with my nail lady discussing the pros and cons of a shellac manicure. All of this I can do without reverting to English, checking a dictionary or getting into too much of a flap. But I am NOT perfect. I make small mistakes all the time. And sometimes big fat ones when I’m having a Bad German day. Just for reference, a Bad German day is a bit like a bad hair day. No matter what you do, it just isn’t right. One of my Bad German day classics was asking someone in a tourist information office if I could get to the local castle “mit dem Fuss”. A weird combination of “mit dem Bus” and “zu Fuss” which literally came out as “with the foot”. Like I only had one foot. Or I was planning to hop up there “with the foot”. Yes, my husband still laughs about that one.

2. What is the employer really expecting?
For many employers, good English and fluent English are interchangeable. They only write the word “fluent” because that’s what everybody writes these days. The reality could be they need anything from a level B1+ to a C2. (click here to see more on CEF language levels). Don’t know your level? Ask your English teacher for a guideline or take one of the many free online CEF tests available.

3. Get yourself an interview and then let them decide.
If English is important they will test it during the interview anyway. If they decide your level isn’t good enough, then that’s that. But perhaps your level is good enough for what they need and meets their idea of “fluent”. If you really want the job, it’s worth giving it a try at least. You could also ask in the interview more about what skills you really require in English.

So, to sum up, defining the word “fluent” is a bit like defining the word “fit”. I can run 5 km without dying so some people would call me “fit”. On the other hand, I generally can’t do it in less than 30 minutes which means I’m pretty slow, so therefore a lot of people would say I’m “not fit”. In the same way, everyone has their own definition of fluent. Just take a look at the blogs and forums on this subject and you’ll get a lot of different answers.

Try not to see fluency as an unrealistic ideal. There’s more flexibility to fluency than you think.

Do you have a different idea of “fluent”? Feel free to comment below. For regular posts like this straight to your inbox, subscribe to my blog by adding your email address in the box on the right.


What can I learn in 10 minutes a day?

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It’s a couple of years since I wrote this post but the “10 minute” question has frequently come up in client (remote) meetings over the last few weeks, so I thought it might be worth reposting. A lot of people have started projects during lockdown such as yoga, cooking, woodwork and interestingly (for me at least) some are learning a new language. Resources showing us how to do all these things are endless but often the question remains, how much time do I really need to invest? Maybe this post will help you decide.

via Is “10 Minutes A Day” the best way to learn?

Favourite German Sausage Sayings

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Where would Germany be without the sausage? The wurst is omnipresent here from street festivals to Saturdays at the football, from Christmas markets to your average takeaway stand serving the slightly bizarre, currywurst (chopped up sausage with ketchup and curry powder!). If sausage disappeared from German lifestyle there would be a big empty section in the supermarket and a certain level of hysteria among the non-vegetarian/vegan section of the population i.e. most Germans and my husband! Apparently, there are around 1500 different types of sausage in Germany. That’s a lot of wurst!

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Of course, the wurst has also made its way into the language and there are lots of great idioms/sayings that are sausage-related. As I have said before, idioms are a fun way to spice up your language skills and impress a local. Just make sure you learn them word for word, as one small mistake can mess up the whole thing. So, here goes with my top 5 wurst idioms and their rough translation:

  1. Let’s start with my absolute favourite. Spiel nicht die beleidigte Leberwurst / Don’t play the insulted liver sausage. Basically, this can be used for anyone who’s in a bit of a huff, bent out of shape and sticking out their bottom lip because they feel they’ve been treated unfairly and now they’re playing the insulted liver sausage. No idea why this one has to be liver sausage (if anyone out there knows, please tell me).
  2. Armes Würstchen / Poor little sausage If you know something about the German language, you might notice the suffix chen on the wurst here. Chen is used to form a diminutive, making the wurst small. So, if you call someone an Armes Würstchen / Poor little sausage you basically feel sorry for them because…..well let’s face it nobody wants to be or receive a small sausage, right?
  3. Eine Extrawurst kriegen / To get an extra sausage On the other hand, if you are a lucky person, people will tell you, you get an extra sausage. This could be anything from getting extra helpings at dinner to getting a better bonus than your colleagues. Because the only thing better than sausage in Germany is of course, more sausage (and perhaps a beer to go with it).
  4. Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst / It’s coming down to the sausage This is kind of like it’s coming down to the wire i.e. this is where it really counts. The final match of a tournament or the last 10 minutes of a tight game or the last exam that’s worth extra points. In the past, it was apparently common at village fairs that the prize for winning a contest was a sausage. It’s all coming down to the sausage now!

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  5. And to finish, as we finally start to come out of lockdown and see a faint light at the end of the dark covid-19 tunnel, Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei / Everything has an end, only the sausage has two. At some point, all things must come to an end. Apart from the sausage.

All this makes me wonder if other countries have similar idioms using their national dishes. Do the Spanish have idioms about paella or the Japanese about sushi?? Let me know if you’ve ever come across something similar or have other wurst idioms to add to my collection. Thanks for reading and as always, please subscribe (in the box on the right) if you would like to follow me and receive this content straight to your inbox.