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German Language Levels: How long does it take to learn German?

Are you studying German and you’re wondering how long it will take to master each German language level?

Whenever you come across a discussion about learning German online, you usually see people mentioning German language levels and referring to them with letters and numbers (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2). 

In this guide, I will walk you through each of the German language levels, explain how long you might need to reach them, provide resources to help you get there, and describe how proficient in German you’ll be once you’re there. 

CEFR Levels

Every letter and number combo is a CEFR level. And your CEFR level decides how well you speak German. CEFR is short for the “Common European Reference Framework”, which is a system used in Europe to make language learning and assessment easier. 

If you’re wondering how long learning German will take you, understanding the CEFR levels is crucial. And knowing your current CEFR level is the first step to figuring out how much resources and time you will need to snag that job opportunity with a certain CEFR level as a requirement. 

So let’s start with the basic question:

How many German language levels are there?

The German language has 6 CEFR levels – starting with A1 (absolute beginner), and ending with C2 (completely fluent). And in this table you will see each level explained in detail.

The A Levels: Beginners

LevelDescriptionCourses & Resources
A1– At this level you will be able to use everyday expressions and form simple sentences that are related to everyday life (like asking for water).

– You will also be able to introduce yourself, state where you come from and ask other people for similar information.

– You can comprehend what other people are saying at this level as long as they speak slowly and use simple words.
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A2– At the A2 level you begin understanding frequently used expressions that are related to a wider variety of topics as long as they are of immediate importance (like work, the environment around you and shopping). 

– Communicating in routine situations and exchanging familiar information will also be easier at this level. 

– A2 German speakers can describe their origin, education and other common attributes about their person or their past. 
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A Levels: Recap

  • These first two German language levels are very elementary, and they’re the bare minimum needed for communication.
  • Reaching the A1 level (from a point of no previous knowledge of a particular language) has been estimated to take between 60 – 80 hours of instruction by both Deutsche Welle and Alliance Française.
  • While there are many different ways to start learning German, I’ve found that the most effective way is through online courses with a community. Smarter German offers exactly that with the Everyday German Course.

The B Levels: Conversational

LevelDescriptionCourses & Resources
B1– B1 German speakers have no problem understanding the main points of a conversation when clear standard German is used, especially when the topic is something familiar like school or work.

– If you reach this level, you can rest assured that you can handle most of the travel situations you will face if you go to Germany. 

– At B1, you will be able to talk about your interests and areas of expertise.

– B1 speakers can talk about the past, describe their day and their dreams, make plans and explain familiar topics.
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B2– At this level, you will start understanding the main ideas in complex texts involving both abstract and concrete topics. 

– If you are a specialist in a certain area, at B2 you will have the ability to easily discuss topics within your speciality.

– B2 speakers can carry fluent conversations with native speakers with neither side having to speak slowly or use simple words.

– If you reach B2, you will be able to express yourself in detail and with a wide range of expressions, give your opinions on things and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different options.
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B Levels: Recap

  • The B levels in the German language is when you really start to use the language independently, requiring little to no help in keeping the conversation going.
  • The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) suggests that you need about 750 hours to get to the B2 level.
  • Don’t let that number scare you, because Smarter German has made reaching these levels easier than ever with two powerful courses:
    • The first one is designed to get you there as fast as possible by focusing on the B1 German exam (B1 Exam Hacking Course)
    • The second one will help you elevate your German speaking abilities to the next level with maximum effectiveness (B2 German Mastery Course)

The C Levels: Fluency

Level DescriptionCourses & Resources
C1– At this point, you will be able to understand a wide range of texts with demanding concepts and implied meanings.

– C1 speakers almost never need to search for a simple word to express their ideas.

– At C1, you will be able to use German effectively in your social, academic and professional life. You will also be able to express your thoughts eloquently and use different ways to link ideas together appropriately.
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C2– The last of the German language levels means that you can understand basically anything you read or hear.

– You will have the ability to summarize long texts and condense complex ideas in order to explain them to other people.

– C2 speakers express their thoughts in a very precise and nuanced manner no matter how complex these thoughts may be.

C Levels: Recap

  • The C levels are as competent as you can get in German. And it’s difficult to say how long you’re gonna need to get there, since it depends on how often you use the language. The Goethe Institut says you need to have studied German for at least 750 hours to get to this point. But realistically, it might take you up to 3 years to reach the C2 level.
  • You shouldn’t feel discouraged if you feel like the C2 level is out of your reach, since even native Germans struggle with reaching this level. But with frequent and correct learning and practice, you will definitely arrive at your German speaking goals.
  • Smarter German is currently working on a course that will make reaching the C1 level infinitely easier. You can sign up here to get notified of when the course is ready.

How do I know which level I’m at?

You might have this question on your mind if you’re already learning German. The above table can give a rough idea of where you fit among the 6 German language levels, but the most accurate way to assess your level is by taking an exam. 

The TestDaF (Test Deutsch auf Fremdsprache) corresponds loosely to the CERF levels of B2 and C1, as the test is meant to tell whether a student has the German language skills needed for academic study in Germany, and so it is not suited for beginners. Meanwhile, the Goethe-Institut has adapted their certificates and levels to match the CERF levels. 

With all the different levels and assessments involved, German has a bad reputation for being difficult. Many people are too scared of taking the first step. But with my Everyday German Course, you will rediscover the joy and happiness of learning a new language. 

If you have any questions on any of the German language levels, let me know in the comments below. 

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4 Replies to “German Language Levels: How long does it take to learn German?”

  1. hallo sir iam pamuri . iam currently studying masters in germany. i want to apply for Automotive course for 2017 summer. i must complete minimum B1 level.
    but A1 level i finished. here course tut-ions are expensive. iam very confused and feeling sad and hard to reach my goal. please give me suggetions to follow your course immediately. i will wait for your reply as much as possible

    thank you

    1. Dear Anjaneyulu,
      I have to admit that I do not fully understand what I could do for you? Could you be more precise? B1 in 12 months should be doable, especially with my material but I always recommend that you hire a private tutor to have an eye on your direction and progress especially because you do not seem to be an experienced self-learner. Learning on your own without experience is dangerous as it might lead to unneccessary frustration. You can find affordable tutors for 45mins (max!!!) per week here:
      http://www.italki.com/?ref=affbettergerman&utm_source=bettergerman&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=affiliate

      You just need them to answer your questions and to talk to you for a bit. The grammar and vocab you get from my A1-B1 grammar course and Reading course.
      I hope this guides you a bit in the right direction.
      Viel Erfolg mit Deinem Deutsch
      Herzlichen Gruß aus Berlin
      Michael

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