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including hands-on report and interview with Tatiana La Mura Flores, responsible for the training concept “Language-sensitive counselling”

Language-sensitive counselling: “We understand each other!”

The training concept of the IQ Competence Centre for Work-Related German Language with a clear guideline provides a common communication platform for counsellors and people seeking counselling Language

Starting position/challenge

Language is the central tool in the daily work of counsellors. In addition to professional counselling services, it is important to deal with a variety of challenges that occur mainly on the verbal level: Complex information must be explained to the clients with German as a second language, and questions must be answered. The training concept “Language-sensitive counselling - Practical tips” and the eponymous handout by the IQ Competence Centre for Work-Related German Language explain how counsellors can use the “language” tool in practice. They were created as an adaptation of the training concept “Language-sensitive teaching” to the counselling context. During the development phase of the new concept, IQ counsellors were asked about linguistic challenges and difficulties in communicating with people with German as a second language. The continuing training “Language-sensitive counselling” emerged based on the needs assessment, and has been offered by the competence centre nationwide since 2013.

Implementation of the concept

The training participants reflect on their use of language in counselling and test concrete possibilities for action, how to convey difficult and complex language structures more plainly and intelligibly on the word, sentence and text level. In addition, communication problem areas are identified; then strategies are provided and tested. The handout provides the participants with assistance to revert back to what they have learned and use it in counselling sessions. A daily challenge, for example, is to disclose complex, at times, legally binding information or texts and forms, which are written in “Official German”, to people seeking counselling in person as well as on the phone.

Unknown words (“informed consent”, “forthwith”, “signature requirement”) and complex, long sentences with a difficult set of compounds (“due to”, “as a result of”) complicate the counselling and should be avoided. An important strategy is to simplify words and phrases, repeat them and ask questions. The use of idiomatic expressions should also be avoided, because each person has a very individual approach to images and their “linguistic translation”. An important aspect of the training is also to ensure comprehension, for which the handout provides important notes (particularly to speak clearly and slowly, use formal German, take breaks, emphasise words, and repeatedly ask questions).


The training and the guideline  aim at counselling staff who advise clients with German as a second language. The objective of the continuing training is to provide practical tools, strategies and recommendations to support the counselling work. The handouts are designed to also “function” without the training. Features and strategies of intelligible language in the context of counselling are taught and trained to help participants learn how to mutually understand each other.

Addressees for transfer:

Job centres and employment agencies, recognition counselling and counselling on job training, vocational counselling, patient or educational  counselling Training concept and guideline: The training concept and the eponymous practical guide “Language-sensitive counselling - Practical tips” have the objective of providing counsellors with tools, strategies and recommendations for a language-sensitive counselling of clients with German as a second language.
Possible stumbling blocks in the conversation, along with their solutions, are identified through examples. The practical guide contains a collection of speech resources for specific communication situations.

Fields of work:

Language-sensitive counselling at the IQ Competence Centre for WorkRelated German Language

Implementing organisation:

passage gGmbH

Responsible for the field of work:

Tatiana La Mura Flores, Nagelsweg 10, 20097 Hamburg, Ph.: +49 (0)40/6367 5381, tatiana.lamura(at)