I realize this may be a potential duplicate, but a quick look through the "Questions that may already have your question" didn't pop up anything.

I am hoping to participate as part of the Fulbright Program, which allows you to conduct research in another country.

My country of choice has a required level of German proficiency of "intermediate" which after a bit of googling, appears to indicate a B1/B2 level.

Here is a PDF of what the Fulbright program considers to be "intermediate" level proficiency: https://prescott.erau.edu/Assets/prescott/forms/army-rotc/foreign-language-form.pdf

My question is, is it possible to reach this level of German speaking proficiency by early October (application deadline)? How many hours should I expect to put into it a day? What are the best places to start? I would be required to take some form of language exam by a professional language teacher.

I am from the US, speak native English and Spanish.

Thank you.

  • If you want to actually pass a B1 test, the not very optimistic answers below apply. However, if you just need "to be able survive day to day conversations outside of the university" and -I asume- be able to understand most from a technical document in your field, I'm quite sure a native speaker of English can become a passive user of German in 3 months if you focus in understanding and practice a lot of listening (Youtube) and reading in German.
    – Pere
    Jun 18, 2017 at 20:24
  • @carlos: You might want to review the answers and tags on the StackExchange's "Language Learning" community, porque hay muchos 'tags' y 'questions' que son muy parecidoda con estos de que Usted. There is a question you might also want to know about on whether or not 'correct pronunciation' is required on C-level exams, and the answer given was "yes, it is". Jul 29, 2017 at 18:59
  • @carlos: In my answer above, all you need to do to see the exam-related questions and answers is to click on the "tags" tag to get the SE tag list, and then click on the "exams". Jul 29, 2017 at 19:08

3 Answers 3


In order to study at a German university, you need level C1, not B1 or B2. Students need to prove their proficiency by taking tests such as TestDaf, the Telc C1 test or the Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom (which is a test for C2). However, in the last few years, I have worked with Chinese students who wanted to study at the University of Stuttgart, and they told me that they absolutely needed the TestDaF certificate because the university did not accept the Telc certificates. TestDaF corresponds to C1 or a very good B2.

However, the requirements for researchers may be different from those for students. If Fulbright accepts B1 or B2, you can ignore most of the above paragraph. However, B1 is definitely too low for attending courses taught to native speakers of German. (My last Chinese language partner, who was close to C1, said he understood only 50% of what was said in the lectures; the situation for a native speaker of a Germanic language should be a bit better, though.)

According to the TestDaF Institute, you need between 700 and 1,000 classroom hours ("hours" of 45 minutes) to reach C1.

Assuming that B1 is sufficient, you will still need between 350 and 480 hours of tuition. See for example the information provided by Sprachsatz (480 hours to complete level B1), ThoughtCo (540 hours, but you may be able to halve that with a private tutor) or German Language School Berlin (480 hours, or 15 weeks of intensive tuition at 30 hours per week).

You can progress faster than the above averages if you are a talented language learner or if you live in a German-speaking community or both. So the claim that you can reach an intermediate level with just 200 hours spread over 3 months seems illusory to me. If you really need to reach B1 in three months, you'll probably need a private tutor and spend 6 hours per day on learning German.

Update: The PDF at https://prescott.erau.edu/Assets/prescott/forms/army-rotc/foreign-language-form.pdf describes proficiency levels based on ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012, and the ACTFL's intermediate level best corresponds with B1 in the CEFR.

  • 1
    I will not be attending courses. It is purely a research grant. The head professor of the research group speaks english, and has assured me that all the research conducted will be in english. All I would need is to be able survive day to day conversations outside of the university.
    – dddxxx
    Jun 9, 2017 at 15:58

It will be difficult, but it is doable if you invest some serious time and effort everyday. The online language learning tool Busuu is the only one that I have found that includes what fluency level you will be at certain points in your acquisition process of the language. It estimates that you will reach a B1 level of fluency in German after around 22 hours of pure vocabulary and grammar acquisition. However, you will have to be reviewing constantly in order to attain an intermediate level in the language. I would estimate that for every hour of pure study of vocabulary and grammar, you should spend about 5-6 hours reviewing that information over time. This puts your total academic language study at around 110 hours of studying.

You should also definitely spend at least 50 hours on additional supplements to your language acquisition process. I would start with German television shows (@Extra) and novels.

Since there's a good chance your exam will contain pronunciation and speech assessment, you should try to seek out native German speakers near you and start up a conversation. If you can't find any speakers near you, try using one of Busuu's features that allow you to have your pronunciation checked and rated by native German speakers online. Spend about 20 hours on this.

Finally, I would test what level you're at using practice German proficiency tests (you can probably find some online). Use tests that are as similar to the one that you will have to take, and spend about 15 hours taking these tests, and about 20-30 hours reviewing information that you forgot or don't understand.

In all, that comes to about 200 hours total, meaning that to reach a B1 level in German in 3 months, you should study the language for about ~2 hours and 10 minutes each day. It's a high goal, but if you have sufficient motivation, you can definitely reach it. Good luck!

  • I will not be attending courses. It is purely a research grant. The head professor of the research group speaks english, and has assured me that all the research conducted will be in english. All I would need is to be able survive day to day conversations outside of the university. Here is a PDF of what the Fulbright program considers to be "intermediate" level proficiency: prescott.erau.edu/Assets/prescott/forms/army-rotc/…
    – dddxxx
    Jun 9, 2017 at 16:00
  • @Carlos In that case, you should use a German "travel course" that will teach you the essentials.
    – fi12
    Jun 9, 2017 at 16:40

To learn enough German to "get by" in a university-level German/English-reading, writing, and speaking environment in a short time I strongly recommend that you purchase a hardcover edition of P. F. Doring's "Colloquial German". Although the book is thorough, it most likely will not quickly get you to the language level you want to attain.

Doring's book is a German grammar book that I believe you should purchase to both amuse you and at the same time help you towards achieving your goal.

Doring's book was first printed in England in 1946 (very shortly after the end of WWII), and was originally titled "German for Adults", and retitled "Colloquial German" for the American market. It is a rare book, but the cost of offerings of the book via Amazon and its vendors is remarkably very, very low.

Doring's book is eminently readable because it's obvious from his text and the examples he used that he had an especially droll of humor, and that adult humor comes forth in the content of his text, exercises, and adult level of vocabulary that he uses. Sometimes the text of his reading examples would not stand a contemporary PC test and, it's obvious his context that Doring didn't write his book for conventional high school and college level study; he obviously wrote his book for adults.

A technique that Doring used in his book is several paragraphs of an incident (e.g., a flight by [1930's era] 'flugzeug' for a short stay at a hotel in Prague, dinner at a fancy hotel with his wife, etc.), then newspaper-style parallel columns for learning and easy translation of German-German and German-English questions and answers relating to the incident. In his hardcover book Doring includes witty irrelevant stories (Aesop's fable of a dying lion, other animals attacking him, and a horse that didn't, for one example). Also in the book you will find a short four-line word puzzle with the answer printed in inverted type below the puzzle.

I'm sorry that I'm not adept at describing Doring's book, but I have rather excitedly purchased three copies of his book for my library from Amazon and two Amazon vendors, including a very rare edition printed, as it says, "during 1946", the first year of publication. No edition of this rare and exceptional textbook has cost me more than a few dollars; the shipping cost alone has been more than the cost of the book! The book is pocket-book sized, and shipping costs are nominal.

You'll note that I have specified the hardcover edition(s) of Doring's book. This is because in 1975 the book was heavily edited and revised by Inge Hubmann-Uhlich to 'modernize it' by changing Doring's adult-oriented examples to high school and college level examples, and in doing so she rather seriously (in my estimation) diluted the author's humor and humorous examples and text. The last edition by Doring himself was printed in 1973.

Do not by any means be 'turned off' by Doring's book because the text context and examples are pre-WWII, 1930's era. Of special interest to you might be Doring's rather long list of German Public Notices (e.g., Stossen = "Push", Ziehen = "Pull" and "What the Teacher Says": Ubersetzen Sie = "Translate", War das richtig? = "Was that correct?"), expressions you might find useful as a Fullbright scholar.

  • 1
    If someone would want to get through the book in three months, how many hours per day would they need to spend on it? And what level would that approximately give?
    – Tsundoku
    Jul 28, 2017 at 15:40
  • Yes, I'm sure this book can easily be read and reviewed in three months by a Fulbright scholar. However, I also have an even better old/rare German--English dictionary which also includes a very excellent, very concise 54-page grammar section, one easily learned in three months. The book's title is "E.U.P. Concise German and English Dictionary"; is listed on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Most prices are under $20 or less. One copy is even listed at 0.01 Euro!! I just saw one copy that I excitedly feel compelled to buy, and will do just as soon as I end my comment here. Tschuss !! Jul 28, 2017 at 17:46
  • This is a fine book recommendation, but explicitly answering the question would also make it a good answer.
    – Tommi
    Feb 13, 2018 at 8:22

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