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Have your say: What’s been your experience speaking English in Austria?

It's not uncommon for immigrants who arrive in Austria without knowing any German to rely on their English skills to get by. But how much can you use it in daily life?

Have your say: What's been your experience speaking English in Austria?
Learning German is hard work, but worth it (Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash)

Austrians have a very high proficiency level in English, ranking second in Europe (after the Netherlands) and third in the world, according to the 2022 EF English Proficiency Index.

Doing well on international English exams is one thing, but actually wanting to speak the language on a day-to-day basis – or to those who are still not fluent in German – it’s another thing entirely.

READ ALSO: In Detail: Just how good are Austrians at speaking English?

English is not spoken (or rarely spoken) in Austrian bureaucracy, including in its offices for immigration. Many readers suggest that immigrants find a German speaker to help them. 

When it comes to your Austrian friends, immigrants often say that those who do speak English may take some time to feel comfortable speaking the foreign language with you. But also it’s not uncommon for locals to speak English with you to a certain extent – and then swap to German when they deem you have been in Austria “long enough”.

Of course, these experiences vary. So we want to hear from you: what has been your experience speaking English with locals in Austria?

Member comments

  1. Worth mentioning that Article 8 of the Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz stipulates that German is the official language of Austria, which therefore explains why in authorities German is the official language used. While some case officers might speak English, the procedure will still be conducted in German. There are some exceptions for regional minority languages and sign language (Gebärdensprache).

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For members


What is Vienna’s MA 35 doing to offer better service for immigrants in Austria?

The city of Vienna now has several new appointment slots for a 'first information meeting' for those wanting to apply for Austrian citizenship. Here's what you need to know.

What is Vienna's MA 35 doing to offer better service for immigrants in Austria?

The office for immigration and citizenship in Vienna, MA 35, is known for long waiting periods, delays and even mistakes being made in applications. It has recently received renewed criticisms as new appointments for Austrian citizenship were not open until mid-2023.

Things got even worse, and applicants now have to wait until October 2023 to get the first appointment. Only after this meeting will they receive another date (sometimes also a year later) to submit the documents asked. 

READ ALSO: ‘Insensitive and inefficient’: Your verdict on Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

Green politician Aygül Berivan Aslan said the reform of MA 35 had “failed”. She said she welcomed the SPÖ’s push towards simplifying access to citizenship but felt that “theory and practice do not match”. Speaking in the Viennese parliament, she introduced a motion for a six-month evaluation of the office.

Aslan also proposed that in the case of delays of more than six months, citizenship costs should be waived for applicants. 

Stadt Wien service screenshot

How bad is the situation?

Not only do people have to wait months for a first talk and then months to submit documents, but once their part is done, the wait is not over. There are currently 3,800 procedures pending for more than half a year in the MA 35, Deputy Mayor and City Councillor for Integration Christoph Wiederkehr (NEOS) said.

He justified delays saying that the number of applications had risen by around 30 percent his year in Vienna – only last month, there were 600 appointments booked. 

“The sharp increase can be explained by the eligibility of refugees from 2015 to apply for citizenship as well as by uncertainties caused by the war in Ukraine”, he said.

READ ALSO: ‘Bring everything you have’: Key tips for dealing with Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

He added that the goal would need to be “simplifying the procedures nationwide”. However, Wiederkehr also said there were reforms still being implemented in the MA 35.

Wiederkehr said: “On the part of the city, there are ongoing staff increases at MA 35. The training of the employees is so complex that it takes about a year.” 

“In addition to the increase in staff, there was an analysis to optimise some work processes, as well as intensive training. Digitalisation is also being accelerated”, he added.