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Filling in a questionnaire, in different languages, after picking a language up, you get 4 options :

  • Basiswissen
  • fließend
  • verhandlungssicher
  • Muttersprache

So, how are "fließend" and "verhandlungssicher" different in this context?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

The Council of Europe made great efforts to define language skill levels. From this the three classic divisions basic, intermediate, and advanced are further elaborated to give us six levels of skill.

The detailed definitions given (see link above) can roughly be translated as follows

  • Proficient User C1 C2 Verhandlungssicher
  • Independent User B1 B2 Fließend in Wort und Schrift
  • Basic User A1 A2 - Basiswissen

Examples:

B2: Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation.[...]
C1: [...] Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. [...]

Please note that demands on our language skills may vary from our profession. We may therefore have a different opinion on what level is considered to be "verhandlungssicher", or "fließend". Imagine that you could already actively follow discussions (Verhandlung) from your specialized field in level B2, or on the other hand you may need at least level C1 if you have to fluently communicate with customers.

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Fließend : You can master a normal conversation at a tea party.

Verhandlungssicher : You can master a discussion where the people won't necessarily be nice to you and will be speaking much faster.

Basically it's conversation vs. agitated discussion

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In my understanding

Fließend (fluently) means

  • you are able to say everything you want, without hesitating
  • you know a lot of words, especially those for everyday conversation (informal, colloquial words)
    (note: this does not mean, that you don't know formal words)
  • you have often spoken the language, for example while visiting the country
  • you know plenty idioms, nuances, ..., and you are able to use them on your own

Verhandlungssicher (business fluent) means

  • you are able to speak fluently, especially without using any fill-ins
  • besides everyday conversation, you know words from area of expertise
  • you know a great many idioms, nuances, ..., especially those used in negotiation to persuade, satisfy your counterpart/opponent or perhaps to take them to the cleaners
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A language teacher told me once that "fließend" means you are able to express yourself in a foreign language without hesitating and quite naturally. "Fließend" implies less proficiency than a native speaker, but more than "verhandlungssicher". If you are "verhandlungssicher" you do not have to understand everything your counterpart says to you, but you should be able to follow the conversation and ask questions if you don't understand everything he says to you so as to arrive at a common solution when negotiating.

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I do not agree. "Fließend" is "fluently" and "verhandlungssicher" is "negotiation-proof". Example: You are the representative of a company and you are in a negotiation with the representative of another company and you are debating on a contract on some million Dollars. In such a debate your language-skills must be negotiation-proof or "verhandlungssicher". Otherwise you could loose lots of money. In this situation you must be able to understand every single word! But it is not necessary that you spreak the language fluently. You can stumble and falter as long as you find the right words. –  Hubert Schölnast Nov 1 '12 at 11:40
    
I beg your pardon, but this is about what I said before, isn't it? –  schneeschmelze Nov 2 '12 at 21:32
1  
No, it is not. You wrote: "If you are 'verhandlungssicher' you do not have to understand everything your counterpart says to you" I wrote: "In this situation you must be able to understand every single word!" –  Hubert Schölnast Nov 6 '12 at 7:03
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