1. Be Specific When Looking for a Dictionary
Since general dictionaries often don’t contain specialized terms such as those used in medicine, law or computing, you’ll need a reference book that fits with your specialization.
If you’re studying German to work in Business Administration, a book like the “Briefe, E-Mails & Co.: Beispiele und Übungen / Buch” would be essential (and if you don’t want to constantly carry around a big, heavy dictionary, it’s also available in a digital edition). It covers areas like marketing, business strategy, taxation and organizational behavior. It’s full of definitions for management jargon like “habitual buying behavior” or “iterative design.”
You can find other dictionaries and reference books for many different fields like law or medicine. There are also dual-language dictionaries between German and other languages for some professions (for example, there are medical dictionaries and phrasebooks that translate between English and Spanish, English and German and English and Portuguese). Depending on your profession and native language, a dual-language dictionary could be another useful tool.
Profession-specific dictionaries and reference books are often available at German bookstores or on Amazon. If you just search for the type of dictionary you need, there’s a good chance you’ll discover that it exists! And remember that most dictionaries these days are also available as apps or in digital editions.
Of course, you could also get a general dictionary, keeping in mind that bigger probably is better. A good dictionary might contain 225,000 (or more!) definitions of words from all kinds of subjects.
2. Read Trade Magazines or Industry-specific Blogs
To ensure that your reading material is relevant, you need to be picky. It’s fun reading lifestyle blogs or beauty magazines, but they’re only helpful to your career if you’re learning German to work in the fashion industry. However, trade magazines and industry-specific blogs cover ideas and trends in the profession that you want to follow.
If the printed magazines that you like aren’t available at newspaper stands where you live, you should try checking at a local university or public library. Libraries often have a huge selection of magazines, and usually they’re free to borrow!
While some magazines are only available by subscription and in certain locations, blogs are free to read and they contain plenty of useful, practical lessons. When you start finding online magazines and blogs, I recommend using StumbleUpon and Feedly to give you a smooth and engaging reading experience.
StumbleUpon is an engine that finds and recommends web content to its users based on their preferences. If you tell StumbleUpon that you like to read about finance, for example, each time you click the “Stumble” button, the engine will give you a highly-rated article related to finance. You don’t know what you’ll get, but it’ll be related to your chosen interests, and the content is usually excellent since many others have recommended it.
Feedly works a bit differently. You can use Feedly to organize, read and even share articles related to your profession. You tell Feedly which blogs and magazines you want to follow, and it continually checks those sites for you and puts updated articles and content all together in one place. It’s basically a way to build a private collection of blogs and magazines.
3. Listen to Professional Podcasts
German podcasts are a quick and accessible way to improve your listening skills. There are excellent podcasts to learn German for daily conversations as well as for business communications. If you dig deep, you’ll also find professional podcasts that will enhance your German as well as your career.
A great example is the Das War Der Tag. That one covers a wide variety of topics, from branding and relationship building to biotechnology advances and a day in the life of a medical doctor. Using the podcast, you can listen to real-life presentations or interviews. You also have access to a vocabulary list, listening exercises, a related article and the transcript of the audio file. It’s an extensive resource!
Podcasts are continually growing in popularity, and new ones are being started all the time. As a result, whether you’re a human resources officer, a professional writer or anything in between, there’s probably a podcast just for you. You’ll likely find one or a few podcasts related to your field if you know where to look.
Start with your favorite blogs and watch for their recommendations. You can also check social media accounts of industry experts to see if they mention any podcasts that you can check out.
4. Make It a Goal to Attend an International Industry Conference
International conferences are great opportunities to mingle with like-minded people and practice speaking German. Going abroad for a conference might cost some money and take time and planning, but the reward is high. You get to build a network with people in your industry and broaden your career path while improving your German comprehension.
If you don’t think you can afford international travel or have doubts about the results, try webinars first. Webinars are seminars conducted over the internet. Many industry leaders organize webinars regularly, which means you won’t have to wait long before a new one becomes available. If you subscribe to their blogs, you’ll be the first to know.
You can also find more information about events and conferences through word of mouth (ask a coworker for recommendations) or on corporate websites.
German for professional purposes is different from everyday German, so you might need to adopt new methods to master German that will work for your job.
Be selective and focus on your particular industry when choosing your learning materials. And if you can make it to one, international conferences provide a fantastic chance to put all your German knowledge of your industry into practice, so consider going to one or two this year.
It might take some hard work to improve your business German skills, but it’s worth it!