Language and language certificate

At this point we have provided some information regarding language levels, certificates and learning.

  • What does A1, B2, C1 etc. refer to?

    The designations A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2 are classifications of the language level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This means that they are used throughout Europe to refer to language levels. 

    If you want to have a better understanding of what is for instance expected of a B2 learner, you can read more and do a self-assessment on the webpage of Europass. 

  • What language level am I expected to have for a degree course?

    To be able to study, you are expected to be proficient in the language of instruction. Most institutions have language requirements that you will need to meet for enrolment. You will need to pass a test and present the certificate. 

    The language requirements can vary depending on the institution and study programme. As a rule, language requirements are set at around level C1 in the language of instruction. It therefore makes sense to have at least a B2/C1 language level in order to be able to follow the study programme.  

    At Universities of Teacher Education (teacher training) or in the field of social work, you will often be expected to have an even higher language level. 

    However, some institutions do not require a language certificate for the Master’s degree programme.    

    While most study programmes at Bachelor’s level are offered in the language of the region (German, French, Italian), there are more courses in English at Master’s level. This is particularly the case for technical study programmes.    

    Find out about the requirements directly on the websites of the the institutions. 

  • Which language certificates are recognised?

    You will require a certificate as proof of your proficiency. However, not all certificates are recognised by higher education institutions. You will usually be expected to prove your language skills in writing and speaking. 

    Certificates issued by Migros Club School and other private providers are not recognised by many higher education institutions. Refer to the website or check with the admissions office if the certificate is recognised. 

    The following language certificates are by large recognised: 

    • German: Goethe Certificate, Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache (TestDaF), Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH), Österreichisches Sprachdiplom (ÖSD) 
    • English: Cambridge certificate, IELTS Academic, TOEFL, Cambridge Proficiency (CPE), Cambridge Advanced (CAE) 
    • French: Diplôme d’Études de Langue Française (DELF), Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française (DALF), Diplôme de Hautes Études Françaises (DHEF), issued by L’Alliance française, TCF, TEF issued by CCIP/Alliance française 
  • Will I have to be proficient in any other languages?

    When you join at Bachelor’s level, you are expected to have a diploma permitting admission to universities. The command of a second language should be part of this diploma.

    Elementary proficiency of English will be expected at universities and federal technical universities (ETH/EPFL). Course readings might from time to time be in English without it being advertised as the language of instruction. Some degree schemes might also require proficiency in additional languages.

    Course convenors or lecturers will be able to provide further details.

  • Where can I improve my language skills?

    You should first of all make use of offers which are being paid for by your adviser or covered by social assistance. If you want to change course or stop attending, you should discuss this with your adviser.

    Private course providers: There is a great range of private language courses. Aims and objectives as well as course fees can differ and depend on the provider. If you are paying for the language course yourself, reassure yourself that the certificate you are studying for is recognised by the higher education institution you are wishing to attend.

    Free courses: Some places offer volunteer-run language courses free of charge. These courses are oversubscribed, and the instructors are not qualified as language teachers. This is an exciting opportunity to improve your language skills. However, it will take a long time to reach an advanced level if these courses are your sole means of learning the language.

  • Take the initiative: How can I teach myself?

    Regardless of your methods, language learning should always involve a concentrated individual effort. There are many apps and websites for learning the language. Some of them are free. 

    Also talk to native speakers as often as possible. Maybe you can find a language learning group somewhere. Tandems are another good option. In tandems, you teach someone your language and the other person teaches you their language. Tandems are free because both of you invest time and learn something. 

    Many students also learn languages. At universities, you can advertise on notice boards so that students who would like to learn your language can contact you.  You can find links in the contacts section below. 

    Reading is highly beneficial. There are reduced rates for refugees in some libraries. University libraries tend to be inexpensive or free of charge.  

    With the Kulturlegi you can use many services at a reduced price. Find out if it is available in your region. 

    Listening to the radio and watching TV can also help you better understand the language and advance your vocabulary. Don’t worry if you are struggling to understand every word at the beginning. 

    Examples of language learning apps:

    Duo Lingo, Tandems, DAFÜR – Learn German

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