SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

CITIZENSHIP

TEST: Is your German good enough for Austrian citizenship?

If you are planning on becoming an Austrian citizen you are going to need to be able to prove basic competency in German comprehension. Would your language skills cut it?

school exam test
Is your German good enough to pass the citizenship test? (Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash)

From discussing the subtext in a Thomas Mann novel to just being able to order a Käsekrainer in your local Würstelstand, there’s a world of difference in the levels of German attained by foreigners in Austria, and of course most people improve the longer they stay here.

But gaining citizenship requires formal qualifications, so we’ve put together some sample questions to give you an idea of the level required. 

This article relates solely to your language ability – applying for citizenship has several other requirements, including having to demonstrate knowledge of Austrian culture and history via the citizenship test.

The current citizenship rules in place require German at level B1 on the six-level scale of competence laid down in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

EXPLAINED: How to get Austrian citizenship or stay permanently in Austria

So what does B1 mean?

B1 on the CEFR scale is defined as being able to “understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”

A B1 candidate “can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken” and can also “produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest.”

In other words, you are not required to be able to speak perfect, error-free German, only to be able to make yourself understood and understand any replies you are given. 

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

Tests

Testing in Austria for language competency as part of a citizenship application is handled at the state level. Therefore there might be some small variation in the requirements from state to state. It is important to check with your local authority on just what certificate is recognised.

Since July 1, 2011, the Austria’s integration fund ÖIF offers a new German test for levels A2 and B1: The German Test for Austria (DTÖ). This is a German test modeled on a test from Germany that was developed by the Goethe-Institut e.V and telc GmbH and revised for Austria by telc by order of the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF).

The tasks are designed for the special communication needs of immigrants and are practical and activity-oriented.

The DTÖ considers individual language learning processes and, in doing so, allows participants to demonstrate their actual language skills through the two levels A2 and B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (GER).  

The nitty gritty

The DTÖ tests German skills in listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The entire test consists of a 100 minute written section and an oral section of about 16 minutes, which can either be done alone or in pairs. 

In addition to the dates offered by certified course providers, the ÖIF offers additional dates for the German Test for Austria (DTÖ) at ÖIF sites in Austria. The current test dates at ÖIF can be found here. Here you can also sign up for a test date online.

READ ALSO: Why has naturalisation in Austria doubled in 2022 – and who are the new citizens?

The new test fee for the New ÖIF Test and the DTÖ is €130.00 per attempt. If you register for a date online, you will receive a request for payment. The fee must be transferred to ÖIF’s bank account at least 10 days before the test date.

Reading (45 minutes)

The following questions come from a section of a sample test by the Goethe Institute. The text, which you can find here, talks about a project to create electricity in a village by using biogas. You need to decide which of the following options makes the statement true.

In diesem Text geht es um… 

  1. die neue Technologie von Eckhard Meier?
  2. die umweltfreundliche Stromproduktion in Feldheim? 
  3. einen Studiengang an der Universität Göttingen?

Die Wissenschaftler wollten zeigen, dass… 

  1. ein ganzes Dorf von modernen Energien leben kann? 
  2. eine Bio-Gasanlage mehr Strom produziert, als ein Dorf braucht? 
  3. man größere Mengen Strom sparen kann?

Damit die Idee auch in anderen Dörfern funktioniert… 

  1. benötigt man viel Geld. 
  2. braucht man genug Platz für die Technik. 
  3. muss die Bevölkerung dafür sein

Listening (25 minutes)

For this section you will have to listen to audio of people talking in German. The format of this section varies: for example, it could be a news report, an interview or a recorded discussion.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, in which you hear five short texts at the start of the audio (listen here). You have to decide which of the following statements about the texts are true.

Text 1 

Frau Stein soll… 

  1. die Chipkarte mitbringen?
  2. zehn Euro bezahlen?
  3. Zurückrufen?

Text 2

Herr Thomas… 

  1. möchte, dass Frau Brahms einen neuen Vertrag abschließt?
  2. braucht Zeugnisse von Frau Brahms?
  3. ruft später noch einmal an?

Text 3 

Auf der Autobahn gibt es Stau wegen… 

  1. einer Baustelle? 
  2. des Berufsverkehrs? 
  3. eines Unfalls?

Text 4 

Welcher Zug fällt aus? Der Zug nach … 

  1. Bern?
  2. Genf?
  3. Lausanne?

Text 5 

Vorausgesagt werden… 

  1. Gewitter an der Elbe?
  2. Temperaturen unter 10 Grad?
  3. Starke Regenfälle im Westen?

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will my children get an Austrian passport if born in Austria?

Writing (30 minutes)

In the written section of the exam you are required to compose a text and are given two choices.

One example of a text could be:

Sie suchen ein gebrauchtes Auto. Im Supermarkt haben Sie eine Anzeige gesehen: Herr Brandmeyer will sein Auto verkaufen. Sie wollen mehr Informationen und schreiben eine E-mail.

Schreiben Sie etwas zu folgenden Punkten:

  • Grund für Ihr Schreiben
  • Preis?
  • Alter/Zustand?
  • wann/wo anschauen?

Spoken (16 minutes)

The spoken component is divided into three parts. In the first one, you should talk about yourself for around two minutes (Name, Geburtsort, Wohnort, Arbeit/Beruf, Familien, Sprachen). In the second part, you should talk about an experience based on a picture you receive from the examiners.

In the third part, both participants receive a paper with an example of an event or meeting and should discuss details about it and arrange for the meeting to happen.

You can find the full exam paper with the correct answers (at the bottom) HERE.

And you can find sample tests of the DTÖ HERE.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

LEARNING GERMAN

‘Brutal’: What it’s really like to learn German in Austria

Anyone that has tried to learn German in Austria will say it’s a challenge. But why is that? And what can international residents do to make the process easier?

'Brutal': What it's really like to learn German in Austria

Learning a new language anywhere is hard, but learning German in dialect-speaking Austria can seem impossible at times.

To find out more about why learning the language is such an issue in Austria – and to provide some useful tips – we asked readers of The Local to share their experiences in a recent survey.

READ MORE: Eight ways to talk about the heat like a true Austrian

Most foreigners only have elementary level German 

To start with, we asked readers about their language skills to get an overview of their proficiency.

The most common German language level of the respondents was elementary, or A2, with 29 percent saying this was their skill level.

This was closely followed by intermediate (B1) at 28 percent. But only 11 percent said their language level was advanced at C1, and just three percent said they speak German at level C2.

The results of The Local’s survey about learning German in Austria.

Additionally, 60 percent of those surveyed said they didn’t have any German language skills before moving to Austria. This can make the learning process harder when locals tend to speak a dialect, but German classes are in Hochdeutsch (High German).

To break it down even further, 39 percent said they mostly speak Hochdeutsch in Austria, 36 percent said they speak a mixture of Hochdeutsch and dialect and 21 percent revealed they only speak English.

But the process of learning a new language can’t be fully explained in statistics, so here’s what the respondents really had to say about the experience in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

Learning German is ‘brutal’

A common response when asked to describe the process of learning German in Austria was “difficult”. Jonnie in Vienna simply said “brutal” and another described it as “shocking”.

Louise in Tyrol even went as far as to say the experience was “shameful and traumatic”.

Lisa Wolfinger in Linz, Upper Austria, provided a bit more context and said: “I’ve gone to classes at a local school which were helpful but hard to understand since every word is spoken in German.”

Paul in Vienna described learning German as: “Like someone handing you a violin with the expectation you will play with the symphony in three years.”

Whereas Cat in Salzburg summed up the slow process of learning German in Austria with: “You think you’re making progress in a class but one simple exchange in public makes me realise I don’t understand Austrian!”

And Asem, who has lived in Austria for 15 years, simply said “die trying” when asked to provide tips on how to learn German.

‘Austrian is fun to learn’

It’s not all doom and gloom though, and some respondents said the varying Austrian dialects actually make it easier to learn the language.

Tanita in Vienna said: “The German grammar rules you bend over backwards trying to learn are practically non-existent in dialect. I haven’t stressed about the whereabouts of the Dativ and Akkusativ tenses. 

“I’m sure as I go along further I will learn Austrian grammar, but I just don’t feel the pressure like with Hochdeutsch. Austrian is so fun to learn.”

FOR MEMBERS: Will a 4-day week and free German lessons help Vienna’s transport network find staff?

But for those living elsewhere in Austria, Tanita added: “Learn dialect outside of Wien. Viennese is basically a Hochdeutsch too. Salzburg or Graz have the middle-Bayerische dialects.”

Sian Staudinger, in Lower Austria, said although learning the language is “quite difficult”, she has “patient” work colleagues that help her with the local dialect. 

She said: “Keep learning Hochdeutsch and you will eventually start picking up dialect and new words.”

Likewise, Ardee in Vienna said: “Immerse yourself by listening as much as possible to the locals when they speak and if you have a TV at home just let it run in the background so you get the sound of the language.”

Similarly, Andrew in Vienna advised: “As challenging and frustrating as it can be, maintain focus on learning proper Hochdeutsch to establish the foundation, and then assimilate dialect idiosyncrasies. Find groups that foster a supportive environment to practice, such as Internations.”

Amelia, in Mondsee, Upper Austria, also advised others to embrace the local dialect and said: “There are set phrases that they use a lot in dialect. When you know these it is easier to sound like a local and understand the locals.”

Learning German in Austria is a stressful experience for some. Photo by energepic.com / Pexels.

English as a safety net

For some international residents surveyed by The Local, the solution to the issue of learning German in Austria was to mostly speak English.

One respondent in Graz said: “All courses are taught in high German but then in daily life everyone is speaking dialect. It gets very difficult to understand and reply with security in German, so I just prefer to use English.”

READ ALSO: 11 Austrian life hacks that will make you feel like a local

But others warned against using English as a safety net, which often just prolongs the learning process.

Terence in Vorarlberg said he now only speaks English “on the phone” after ten years in Austria, adding that “immersion is the only way” to get to grips with the language.

Find the right teacher

Several respondents said finding the right teacher or course was a key part of successfully learning German in Austria.

This is an approach advocated by Vienna-based German teacher Sarah Maria Malik who told The Local: “Finding the right German teacher is crucial and important because we spend around several hours together each week.

“Ask yourself, do you want to spend so many hours a week with your teacher or group? Always observe your emotions and feelings when studying German, personal reflection is very important.”

READ MORE: MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Sarah also said it’s crucial to identify the reasons for wanting to learn a language before diving in.

She said: “The important question when learning German is, what is my personal reality? It’s very individual, so find that out first.

“Once you know your most important goal or motivation, you should then find the best course. Some people like group courses because they want to get to know others, or they want a social environment. 

“But for others, time is precious, and they need to learn fast, so they take private lessons instead.”

Sarah also said fear is a big barrier for people learning German in Austria, which is something she aims to break down with her students through coaching and counselling.

She said: “The thought that it is too difficult to learn can be hard to overcome, but it can be a fun challenge and not a negative challenge. If you change your mindset and get a different attitude, then learning German starts to become fun.”

Useful links

Internations 

City of Vienna 

SHOW COMMENTS