Foreigners must prove their language skills in a test. For example, they check whether they understand a loudspeaker announcement.
The language is, among many others, one of the major hurdles for the many refugees who arrive daily in Germany and want to build a life in this country. An unlimited right of residence – in the official German: Settlement permit – is subject to various conditions, one of which is a successfully completed integration course.
"A foreigner is to be granted the settlement permit if he has sufficient knowledge of the German language", it says in Paragraph 9 of the Residence Act. To test such knowledge, there is the so-called "German test for immigrants (DTZ)" at the end of the integration course since July 2009. It was developed by the Goethe-Institut and telc GmbH, an organization that offers language examinations and further education seminars, on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
What foreigners should be able to speak
Whether an applicant can speak, write and understand enough German is measured by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Six different language levels are distinguished, from A1 (beginner) to C2 (approximate mother tongue skills). The DTZ is a so-called scaled test: It is not just about passing or failing, but also about how well the examinee masters the language. If he gets GER-level B1, the test is passed successfully. If only A2 is enough, the state-sponsored integration course can be extended.
"The subjects should be able to express themselves in simple and coherent language on familiar topics such as work, school, leisure time, etc.," says Michaela Perlmann-Balme, once project leader in the development of the DTZ in the Goethe-Institut. Consequently, hearing and reading comprehension, writing and speaking skills are tested in the test – always on the basis of topics that could be encountered by the candidates in real life. Some examples:
A short loudspeaker announcement is recorded at a station. "Dear passengers, the ICE 888 from Munich to Göttingen is ten minutes late today and the train is not on track 4, but on track 5. Attention: The ICE 888 to Göttingen via Würzburg, Fulda, Kassel / Wilhelmshöhe is not on track today 4. Please stay behind, the train does not stop. "
After listening to the short sequence, candidates should answer a question in multiple-choice format. It is: Where does the ICE stop in Göttingen? A: On track 4; B: on track 5; C: on track 10.