Language tests keep 1 in 3 foreign spouses from joining loved ones in Germany

One in three foreigners seeking to join a spouse in Germany is unable to do so because they fail to pass a basic language test. The failure rate was especially high for applicants from Iraq.

Nearly a third of foreigners seeking to join their spouses in Germany fail to pass a German language test in their homeland, preventing them from joining their partner.

Only foreigners who pass a basic German test in their country of residence are allowed to move to Germany to join a spouse. The regulation does not apply to EU citizens, Americans, Israelis, highly qualified individuals and spouses of recognized asylum-seekers.

Deutsche Welle offers free online German language courses for all levels

According to data provided by the government to a parliamentary inquiry from the Left Party and shown to the Funke Media Groupon Thursday, last year 16,200 out of 48,130 test-takers failed to pass the Deutsch-1-Test.

Culture | 04.02.2019

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2018: 'Heisszeit'

The term "Heisszeit," or warm age — as opposed to an "ice age," which sounds quite similar in German: "Eiszeit" — was chosen as the Word of the Year 2018, reflecting not only Germany's extreme summer this year, but climate change as as whole.

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2017: 'Jamaika-Aus'

"Jamaica coalition" refers to the symbolic colors of three parties in German politics: black for the conservative CDU/CSU, yellow for the liberal FDP and green for the Greens. In 2017, coalition talks kept Germany busy for weeks, but then came to an abrupt halt. This was "Jamaika-Aus," or Jamaica Out.

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2016: 'Postfaktisch'

During the US presidential election campaign, and after Donald Trump's victory in the Fall of 2016, the word "postfaktisch," or post-factual, came into common usage as it denoted the spread of fake news. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) couldn't abstain from using it. It comes into play when public opinion is formed by emotions and resentments rather than objective facts.

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2015: 'Flüchtlinge'

"Flüchtlinge" — refugees. Undoubtedly, no other issue had a bigger impact in 2015. The closest runner-up was "Je suis Charlie," an expression with which people expressed their solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attack against the French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo. Number three was "Grexit," which referred to the possibly impending expulsion of Greece from the Eurozone.

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2014: 'Lichtgrenze'

The winning word in 2014 was "Lichtgrenze," or border of light, which refers to a light installation on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was followed by "Schwarze Null," black zero, describing government efforts to not incur new debts. Another favorite was "Götzseidank," alluding to "Gott sei Dank" (thank God) and the legendary goal of soccer star Mario Götze in Brazil.

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2013: 'GroKo'

"GroKo" is short for Grosse Koalition, a grand coalition of the CDU/CSU and the SPD. Recalling "Kroko," or crocodile, the word also expresses derision. The runner-up was "Protz-Bischof," or braggy bishop, referring to Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg who came under fire for his prestigious construction projects. The term was followed by "Armutseinwanderung," poverty-driven migration.

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2012: 'Rettungsroutine'

"Rettungsroutine," rescue routine, reflected the repetitive efforts to stabilize the European economy. "Kanzlerpräsidentin," chancellor-president, came second: It derided Merkel for acting as neutral as the German president. Third was "Bildungsabwendungsprämie," education-refusal-bonus, derogatorily used for non-working mothers who demand a bonus for not sending their kids to a kindergarten.

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2011: 'Stresstest'

According to the GfdS, "Stresstest," stress test, so superbly expressed the spirit prevailing in 2011 that it became part of everyday speech. It referred to stress surrounding banks, train stations, governments and nuclear power stations. "Stresstest" was followed by the verb "hebeln," to lever, associated with the expansion of euro saving efforts, as well as "Arabellion," or Arab Spring.

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2010: 'Wutbürger'

"Wutbürger," angry citizen, described the impression that political decisions were being made without asking the population first. It was followed by "Stuttgart 21," the heavily criticized reconstruction of Stuttgart's main station, and "Sarrazin-Gen", the gene of Thilo Sarrazin, a politician and author who holds highly controversial views on migrants.

From 'Heisszeit' to 'Abwrackprämie': Germany's words of the year 2009-2018

2009: 'Abwrackprämie'

You got an "Abwrackprämie," a wreck bonus, for turning in your old car to receive a new one at a reduced price. Close favorites were "kriegsähnliche Zustände," war-like conditions, referring to Germany's involvement in peace-keeping missions in Afghanistan. And finally, the "Schweinegrippe," swine flu, turned out to be less dangerous than thought, but continued to stir public hysteria.

Many applicants came from Turkey, Russia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Thailand, Vietnam and Iraq. The failure rate among Iraqi applicants was particularly high at almost 50%.

Read more: Migrants fail German tests in increasing numbers

"Basic language skills" are defined by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) as the ability to understand simple sentences, introduce oneself, go shopping and ask directions. A person should also be able to fill out official forms.

The opposition Left Party criticized the regulations for spousal reunification as "completely unrealistic."

The language test only serves "to keep families separated from each other for many years," Left Party parliamentarian Gökay Akbulut told the Funke Media Group.

Read more: Gender neutral wording is making German ridiculous, asserts association 

Related Subjects

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Ich habe Jetlag und brauche Schlaftabletten.

"I have jetlag and need sleeping pills." Depending on where you're coming from, jetlag can be fierce when you arrive in Germany. Fortunately, pharmacies can be found on nearly every corner here. (They're separate shops and are not located inside supermarkets or drug stores.) Just look for a sign with a big red "A" for "Apotheke."

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Ich übernachte in einer Airbnb-Wohnung im Hipster-Viertel.

"I'm spending the night in an Airbnb apartment in the hipster neighborhood." Keep this phrase especially handy for Berlin. While the house rental service has taken flak among locals for driving up rents in the capital, it's still a popular option for visitors. Looking for the hipster neighborhoods? Try Kreuzberg or the northern part of Neukölln.

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Lohnt es sich, Neuschwanstein zu besuchen?

"Is it worth visiting Neuschwanstein?" Sure, sometimes it's fun to play the tourist - and yes, the Bavarian castle is worth a trip during the less busy off-season. But when you're in Germany, be sure to spend some time away from the sights. Take a long walk on the Rhine River in Cologne, mingle with the locals in a corner kebab joint in Hamburg, or learn to surf in Munich's English Garden.

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Ich hätte gerne einen Latte Macchiato mit Sojamilch.

"I'd like a latte with soy milk." Yes, gourmet coffee drinks have arrived in Germany, too. For vegans, hipsters and lactose-intolerant coffee lovers, you're likely to find soy milk in many urban specialty coffee shops. While we would call it just a "latte," you'll usually find the steamy drink with the Italian word "macchiato" attached - meaning "stained" or "marked" by espresso streaks.

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Darf ich zahlen, um Ihre Toilette zu benutzen?

"Can I pay to use your restrooms?" Only ask this question in cafes or shops, not at someone's home. It's common to pay for restrooms inside of restaurants and department stores, even if you're a customer. If you're out and about and have to go, it can be hard to find a public restroom. If it's very urgent, you may have to offer 50 cents for the favor at a cafe if you're not a guest there.

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Wo finde ich die coolsten Turnschuhe in der Stadt?

"Where can I find the coolest sneakers in town?" Sneakers are in - especially in capitals of cool like Berlin. To find a pair to take home, you can always try the Mall of Berlin or the Alexa mall on Alexanderplatz. But for a less mainstream selection, try Münzstrasse in the Mitte distrinct. And if you just want to people watch and admire the footwear, head to Oranienstrasse in Kreuzberg.

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Wie streng sind die Türsteher vor dem Club?

"How strict are the bouncers at the club?" If you want to enjoy Germany to the fullest, then indulge in some nightlife while you're here. Drinking beer and wine is legal at 16, though you have to be 18 to consume anything harder than that. So unless you're a minor, it shouldn't be a problem getting in - as long as you're wearing shoes and a shirt and your outfit suits the club's style.

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Ich bin auf der Suche nach einem guten Katerfrühstück.

"I'm looking for a good hangover breakfast." Breakfast after a night out includes the same thing the world over: plenty of grease. On weekends, many Germans like going out for brunch, and the classic brunch includes a few good hangover remedies, such as scrambled eggs and salami sandwiches. But if you want fried potatoes and sausage, you'll have to look for a British or American breakfast place.

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Dieser Zug verspätet sich wegen einer Oberleitungsstörung.

"This train is delayed due to a defect in the overhead wiring." That's one of many possible reasons for a longer-than-expected train ride and certainly a common one. Compared to other countries, German trains are relatively punctual, but - despite the clichés - don't be surprised if you arrive later than planned.

10 handy expressions for traveling in Germany

Mein Koffer hat (kein) Übergewicht.

"Mein suitcase is (not) overweight." Depending on how much you've indulged in German sausage and cakes (not to mention Latte Macchiatos), you might end up leaving Germany with a few extra kilos. But if you want to avoid extra airline fees, your suitcase should not. It might be best to stock up on digital photos as souvenirs, rather than cuckoo clocks.

"Learning the language in Germany would be much easier, cheaper and less burdensome for those impacted," she added.

However, the government's integration commissioner, Annette Widmann-Mauz of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), defended the regulations.

Foreigners need to have basic language skills when they arrive "so that they can find their way around from the very beginning and become established in society," she said.

8 German words about time


This is what happens every year in October and March — and is set to disappear in the future following the latest EU vote: Zeitumstellung, or time change. Even if it feels horrible to give up an hour of sleep, keep in mind you'll get it back in the fall. Zeitumstellung at least gives a feeling of power — even if we are all bound by time, twice a year we act like we can change it.

8 German words about time


Many other German expressions integrate "Zeit," the word for time. A "Zeitschrift" — literally, time writing, is simply a magazine. Whether it includes political discourse or scantily clad women (now with nipples covered), theoretically a magazine should keep up with the times.

8 German words about time


While Zeitgeist can also be used in English, its direct translation — time spirit — conjures up images of Charles Dickens' Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present. Referring to the philosophical idea that each era is characterized by particular ways of thinking, the concept of Zeitgeist dates back to 18th-century philosophers and is often associated with Johann Gottfried Herder.

8 German words about time


Like time itself, food is elementary to the human existence. A "Mahlzeit" simply means "meal time," and can refer to breakfast, lunch or dinner. But it's also used to wish someone else the maximum amount of pleasure while eating. Next time you see a friend chomping down on a sandwich, you can say, "Mahlzeit!"

8 German words about time


It's often referred to as the happiest day of your life. In German, it's also a "high time" — a "Hochzeit." Who isn't high on adrenaline and emotion on that day of all days, on which your credit card debt reaches an all-time high? And for some impatient mothers-in-law, it certainly may be "high time" for that son to finally get hitched.

8 German words about time


It's "pickle time!" I'll have a BLT and some chips with that pickle, please... Actually the term "Sauregurkenzeit" originally, in the 18th century, referred to periods when little food was available. Now, it's used during the summer when everyone's on vacation, politics comes to a standstill, the streets are empty, and things get quiet. Pickle anyone?

8 German words about time


While "Genosse" means "comrade" and has a communist after-taste, a "Zeitgenosse" is anyone who lives at the same time you do: a contemporary. Just think: You are a "Zeitgenosse" of Angela Merkel, Heidi Klum and Cristiano Ronaldo. Your co-worker may not cheer, though, if you tell him he's your "time comrade."

8 German words about time


German often has a single word for a concept English needs a phrase to express. "Zeitgefühl" is your sense of time — something that suffers when you're concentrating on an important project, staring into the eyes of your sweetheart, or changing the clocks back for daylight savings. Your Zeitgefühl may say it's 8:00 am, but it's really only 7:00. So go back to sleep already!

cw/sms (AFP, KNA)

Every evening, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.