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#1 pablopatito

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:11 AM

I'm 39, have a young family, work in IT, live in England and have no foreign language skills. I'd like to learn German and move to Germany. Has anyone done this and how hard is it to do? Learning a foreign language in your forties to a level that will allow you to apply for jobs seems a tall order. Is it unrealistic? I don't have specific enough IT skills that would allow me to get a job abroad without speaking the language - basically I'm not that big a draw for employers. Even if I could speak fluent German, what are the chances of a German company employing a foreigner instead of a local?

Everyone talks about leaving on this forum, but I've never been optimistic about how practical it is.

Edited by pablopatito, 05 October 2011 - 09:18 AM.


#2 Simon Brown

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:20 AM

I'm 39, have a young family, work in IT, live in England and have no foreign language skills. I'd like to learn German and move to Germany. Has anyone done this and how hard is it to do? Learning a foreign language in your forties to a level that will allow you to apply for jobs seems a tall order. Is it unrealistic? I don't have specific enough IT skills that would allow me to get a job abroad without speaking the language - basically I'm not that big a draw for employers. Even if I could speak fluent German, what are the chances of a German company employing a foreigner instead of a local?

Everyone talks about leaving on this forum, but I've never been optimistic about how practical it is.

I went to germany in 1986, had an O level in German. Anyway many major companies will use English as the business language, it will be rare to meet a German IT professional who does not speak English.

The best thing you can do is apply for a job, when you get one go to a language school a few times each week, this is what I did in Hamburg. I was single, most of the others in my class were scandinavian / italian aur-pairs :)

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#3 nmarks

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:24 AM

Why make rod for your own back ny moving to a non-English speaking country?
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#4 no lucky man

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:32 AM

I'm 39, have a young family, work in IT, live in England and have no foreign language skills. I'd like to learn German and move to Germany. Has anyone done this and how hard is it to do? Learning a foreign language in your forties to a level that will allow you to apply for jobs seems a tall order. Is it unrealistic? I don't have specific enough IT skills that would allow me to get a job abroad without speaking the language - basically I'm not that big a draw for employers. Even if I could speak fluent German, what are the chances of a German company employing a foreigner instead of a local?

Everyone talks about leaving on this forum, but I've never been optimistic about how practical it is.


I'm not sure that your age is really an issue, but you will need time (2/3 years from my experience). Personally I find German a very tricky language. I have learned quite a bit, but you will need to be pretty comfortable with grammatical terms as German is a minefield in this respect. Here are the 2 main things I find difficult; I believe these are common problems:

1. German has 3 genders, but it doesn't just stop with der,die and das. Depending on the 'case' of the sentence, the equivalent word for 'the' will be a choice of many.
2. Word order is oftten inversed, putting the verb at the end of the sentence. This obviously makes it hard to process. As a simple example:

'I cannot find the key' would translate as 'I cannot the key find'

I know some people who find it a simple language to learn, but it's not something I hear often. The major factor as always in helping you get fluent in German (both speaking and understanding) would be the ability to practise. Usually this entails living in a German speaking country for some time. Nothing beats this experience, which will help your language skills, as well as giving you experience of this country and its culture. I have lived in Germany and thoroughly loved it, but one thing you will immediately notice is the quality of the English spoken by alot of Germans, and this obviously poses a problem for you too.

#5 snowflux

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:34 AM

I'm 39, have a young family, work in IT, live in England and have no foreign language skills. I'd like to learn German and move to Germany. Has anyone done this and how hard is it to do? Learning a foreign language in your forties to a level that will allow you to apply for jobs seems a tall order. Is it unrealistic? I don't have specific enough IT skills that would allow me to get a job abroad without speaking the language - basically I'm not that big a draw for employers. Even if I could speak fluent German, what are the chances of a German company employing a foreigner instead of a local?

Everyone talks about leaving on this forum, but I've never been optimistic about how practical it is.

Were you intending to take your young family with you? How do they feel about moving to Germany (or waving goodbye for long periods when you move to Germany)?

Edited by snowflux, 05 October 2011 - 09:35 AM.


#6 swissy_fit

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:35 AM

I'm 39, have a young family, work in IT, live in England and have no foreign language skills. I'd like to learn German and move to Germany. Has anyone done this and how hard is it to do? Learning a foreign language in your forties to a level that will allow you to apply for jobs seems a tall order. Is it unrealistic? I don't have specific enough IT skills that would allow me to get a job abroad without speaking the language - basically I'm not that big a draw for employers. Even if I could speak fluent German, what are the chances of a German company employing a foreigner instead of a local?

Everyone talks about leaving on this forum, but I've never been optimistic about how practical it is.

This is your problem, the language is a secondary issue.
If you get extremely marketable skills then you can probably find a job in Geneva(French), Zurich(German) (the Swiss pay the best) or in a German city, then learn the language while you are there.
You are unlikely to be able to learn a language sufficiently well to work in that language whil living/working in England, unless you're very gifted with languages.

Edit :-
As for your family, if you're moving to Switzerland or Germany ignore any protests, within weeks they will begin to notice that their new home is better than England and will stop whingeing. They will adapt faster than you.

Edited by swissy_fit, 05 October 2011 - 09:41 AM.

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#7 RUSARTNET

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:37 AM

I know I wrote about this on a similar thread.

I think learning a language is difficult if you are moving to a country for economic reasons. It is so much easier when you have a natural affinity already for the culture, its language. Learning a language is not just learning words and grammar rules. It is also the additional input you get when reading the country's literature, its history, things that stick that way. Learning a new language because you have to, not because you want to, rarely ends in success, in my opinion and experience.

Teaching English abroad is another option. Funnily enough, for success in that, you have to be good at the English side - knowledge of the foreign language is actually of second importance (again, from my experience).

#8 pablopatito

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:38 AM

Why make rod for your own back ny moving to a non-English speaking country?


Where else is there? I imagine its pretty hard to get a decent job in IT outside of the EU due to work visa restrictions. I used to live in Hong Kong, which was great, but with kids I'd prefer to be closer to family in England.

#9 Austin Allegro

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:39 AM

I'm 39 and moved to Hungary earlier this year. I have been learning the language pretty lazily for about a year. It's supposedly one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. It's certainly been tough but I have persevered and I can now do most everyday things in the language, shopping, ordering stuff in restaurants, and make simple conversation etc. The key is to study every day and immerse yourself in the language as much as possible and don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself with mistakes.

It's certainly MUCH harder than German which I learned at school and never found particularly difficult.

However there's no way I would be good enough to get a job in the language - I work for a British company and all work is done in English. That's quite common here though I'm not sure about Germany. So I would say don't let language skills put you off, give it a go anyway, I'm glad I did as my quality of life is better here I think.
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#10 Austin Allegro

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:41 AM

Where else is there? I imagine its pretty hard to get a decent job in IT outside of the EU due to work visa restrictions. I used to live in Hong Kong, which was great, but with kids I'd prefer to be closer to family in England.


You could try Malta or Cyprus, which are Commonwealth countries and EU, so English is spoken officially.
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#11 pablopatito

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:43 AM

Were you intending to take your young family with you? How do they feel about moving to Germany (or waving goodbye for long periods when you move to Germany)?


We'd all go. The wife is keen and the kids are too young to understand. But I suspect the kids will have a better life growing up as Germans than English - better education, better housing, less crime, better job prospects etc etc. That's the main reason for wanting to leave. My lad's only six, but I think I can tell already that he'll become an engineer and Germany seems to suit engineers better.

#12 Simon Brown

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:44 AM

Why make rod for your own back ny moving to a non-English speaking country?

In my case to experience the culture, had a great time for two years in Hmaburg. Then Brussels, now Switzerland sicne 1989.

It's a big world out there, I'm very glad I've done what I have.

Planning to return to Cornwall in 2012.

#13 porca misèria

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:46 AM

I went to germany in 1986, had an O level in German. Anyway many major companies will use English as the business language, it will be rare to meet a German IT professional who does not speak English.

The best thing you can do is apply for a job, when you get one go to a language school a few times each week, this is what I did in Hamburg. I was single, most of the others in my class were scandinavian / italian aur-pairs :)

Happy times...

I went to Germany in 1985, had an O level in German, learned the language on the job. Major company where I worked used German for everything: I was just the second non-native-German-speaker in a big team and had to learn! And the local (Bavarian) dialect was very different to what you encounter in an O level. My time in Germany was the one and only time in my life when I had a telly: watching it helped with picking up the language!

Language school is IMHO superfluous. I took lessons when I first went to Italy (1992) 'cos they were provided at my workplace, a big international org. But the imperative of living won through: I put my name down for lessons, but they didn't start for over a month, by which time I had gained (of necessity) the confidence to buy the local advertising rag, 'phone some advertisers, and rent a flat, and was well on the way to a level adequate for general conversation. Maybe if you go somewhere like Amsterdam, where English really is more-or-less universal, language school would help!

To the OP: if you're motivated, just go! Though perhaps start with the job ads, and line something up before burning your boats. Unless your existing job is fully portable.

#14 snowflux

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:47 AM

...
As for your family, if you're moving to Switzerland or Germany ignore any protests, within weeks they will begin to notice that their new home is better than England and will stop whingeing. They will adapt faster than you.

I wouldn't dismiss family concerns quite that casually! Sure, if the kids are young, they'll pick up the language pretty quickly and soon integrate. But with no language knowledge, job or social network, life could be very difficult for a partner, no matter how pleasant the material environment.

#15 ccc

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:48 AM

I'm not sure that your age is really an issue, but you will need time (2/3 years from my experience). Personally I find German a very tricky language. I have learned quite a bit, but you will need to be pretty comfortable with grammatical terms as German is a minefield in this respect. Here are the 2 main things I find difficult; I believe these are common problems:

1. German has 3 genders, but it doesn't just stop with der,die and das. Depending on the 'case' of the sentence, the equivalent word for 'the' will be a choice of many.
2. Word order is oftten inversed, putting the verb at the end of the sentence. This obviously makes it hard to process. As a simple example:

'I cannot find the key' would translate as 'I cannot the key find'

I know some people who find it a simple language to learn, but it's not something I hear often. The major factor as always in helping you get fluent in German (both speaking and understanding) would be the ability to practise. Usually this entails living in a German speaking country for some time. Nothing beats this experience, which will help your language skills, as well as giving you experience of this country and its culture. I have lived in Germany and thoroughly loved it, but one thing you will immediately notice is the quality of the English spoken by alot of Germans, and this obviously poses a problem for you too.


This is true however if you make these mistakes people will still understand what you mean - even if they screw their face up a bit. The same cannot be said for other languages like Polish or Hungarian. Say something the 'wrong' way and they won't have a clue what you are saying.

This is why I thin languages like German and English are probably so much easier to learn to get by with. You may sound like a bit of a divot - but the other person will get the jist of what you mean. Do the same in Hungary or China and they won't have the faintest clue what you are talking about.

To the OP - I would certainly class German as one of the 'easier languages to get to a point where you can be unerstood. Being perfect at it may take a long time. Then again - is that such a big deal ? If you can understand them and they can understand you then who really cares. Half the people in Glasgow don't speak proper English and they get by fine. Well sort of anyway...
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