Questions & answers - LANGUAGE

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

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

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

    Language requirements can differ depending on the institution and course. You should roughly expect proficiency at the C1 level in the language of instruction.

    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.

    Go directly to the institution’s website to find out more about requirements.

    • Bachelor's degrees

      At Bachelor’s level most degree schemes will be offered in the language of the respective region (German, French, Italian). Degree schemes offered in English are uncommon.


    • Master's degrees

      Degree schemes in English are more common at Master’s level. This is frequently the case for scientific or technical subjects. Some institutions do not require a language certificate for a Master’s degree. You should usually expect proof of proficiency at the C1 level. In order to pursue your studies, it therefore makes sense to have proficiency at least at B2/C1 level.

  • 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)

      The exact results will be specified by the institution.

      Get in touch with the institution of your choice to verify which certificates are recognised and which results are expected.

    • English
      • Cambridge certificate
      • IELTS Academic
      • TOEFL
      • Cambridge Proficiency (CPE)
      • Cambridge Advanced (CAE)

      The exact results will be specified by the institution.Get in touch with the institution of your choice to verify which certificates are recognised and which results are expected.

    • 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

      The exact results will be specified by the institution.

      Get in touch with the institution of your choice to verify which certificates are recognised and which results are expected.

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

    The labels A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2 have derived from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This means they are used across 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.

    Many degree schemes will require you to be able to understand, analyse and above all write texts. Reach out to a current student if you want to get a better idea of what language skills are required at degree level.

  • 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.

    Talk to native speaker as much as you can. Perhaps there is a language café in your proximity.

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

    You can benefit from a wealth of cultural offers using the Kulturlegi discount card. 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.

  • Tandems and language exchange

    You should talk to native speakers as much as possible in order to learn the language. Language exchange (“tandems”) is one option available to you. The idea is that you teach someone your language and your partner will teach you in their language. This method is free of charge because both partners invest time and can gain something from it.

    Many students at university level are also learning languages. Use noticeboards in university buildings to put out an advert to students who are interested in learning your language.

    Check the contact details below for links.

  • Apps and language learning online

    There are plenty of apps and websites for language learning. Some of them are free of charge.



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