Is it worth learning German these days
The German language is gaining in importance worldwide
After the massive decline in popularity in the 20th century, the German language is currently experiencing a real comeback.
After the German lost its reputation after the First World War, but at the latest after the Second World War, the language is now associated with a flourishing economy and success. The number of speakers has been increasing continuously for years. Those who learn German acquire specialist skills and this opens up new opportunities. German has never been considered such a useful language, it seems.
Then there is the migration factor. As a result, more attention has been paid to language acquisition, especially in recent years. Goethe-Instituts all over the world have also recorded an increase of 20-30%. There are currently around 104 million native speakers, almost as many speakers and another 16 million people are currently learning the language. Even if English is and will remain the undisputed lingua franca, the German language is undisputedly gaining in importance.
The German vocabulary is diverse and includes more words than almost any other language. The current corpus consists of approx. 300,000 to 500,000 words. That is a third more than 100 years ago. German is a growing, dynamic language. With new words added every day, for example through composition or foreign languages, the language benefits from constant growth. Just think of the popular Anglicisms. So words like “energy efficiency” or “google” didn't exist a few years ago, although most people today should understand them without any problems. German is a complex language that is not only shaped by tradition but also by history. It is precise and exact, and no less varied in poetry and literature.
German is disappearing as a scientific language
Once widespread in science, German has long since lost its status as a scientific language. In the natural sciences today, communication is almost exclusively in English. The humanities are also following this trend. The reason for the loss of importance of the German language is the international discourse. If you want to take part in it in order to get the necessary attention for your research, you have to do so in English. It looked very different in the 19th and 20th centuries. A large part of the scientific research came from Germany and German was one of the primary languages in which it was published. Today, however, more than 90% of all research is published in English.
The German language in history
One of the biggest reasons for the unpopularity of the language in the 20th century was the two world wars in connection with the atrocities of the Nazi regime, which many people associated with the language. Many Germans were also ashamed of their own language. Politics held back for a long time and did not actively promote the language. In 1973 it would have been possible to have German recognized as one of the official languages of the UN, which, however, was not requested by either of the two German sides at the time. Something similar happened in the European Union. Although the then Chancellor Helmut Kohl campaigned more strongly for the presence of the German language in the EU, little happened. Although German has been declared one of the official working languages in the European Union, almost no one can speak it in practice.
It took a long time for the German language to be associated with culture again. But even today, German is seen more as a means to an end and reduced to German lessons in school. In literary and cultural terms, the German language continues to receive little support.
Economy and language
Many linguists see a direct link between a language and the country's economy. It is therefore interesting to look at the gross domestic product associated with the language. The German language ranks fourth here after English, Chinese and Spanish. So the economic potential is a big factor in whether language learning is attractive to people. Many associate language with possibilities. This can be studying, working or moving to the country.
The German language is also becoming increasingly important in business. Although most contracts are concluded in English, the German market in Austria, Switzerland and Germany is becoming more and more attractive. Those who want to penetrate these national markets will be more successful if they can speak the country's mother tongue. This makes a huge difference, especially when it comes to networking and acquiring new customers, and offers immense advantages. Safe language skills seem to be the key to economic success here.
Funding measures abroad
The Goethe-Institut, the Central Office for Schools Abroad and the German Academic External Service (DAAD), among others, are promoting the further spread of the German language. In 2008 these institutions launched the “Schools Partners for the Future” program. The project, which is also funded by the Federal Foreign Office, connects more than 1,800 schools around the world where the German language is particularly important. In these so-called PASCH schools, not only are teachers trained, but entire language sections are set up. Most of these schools can be found in China, India, Indonesia and Brazil.
Monolingualism is always a cognitive limitation. Therefore, multilingualism should be encouraged, regardless of whether this concerns the German language or another. German has become an important language of culture and art and learning the language seems more attractive than ever. A more active language policy is needed to keep it that way. The fundamental problem seems to be that no one is really sure which research area the funding falls into, since language funding affects both linguistics and political science. It remains to be seen how the situation will develop over the next few years.
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