Learning German is Worth It

Whether in everyday life, in the works of great poets and thinkers or on a business trip to Europe: We encounter German everywhere, making a good command of German all the more important. Conveying to young people exactly these advantages of learning German is the goal of this year’s "Do Deutsch! Campus Weeks," organized by the German Embassy together with over 40 partner universities across the country.

We speak German

Deutsch Enlarge image (© dpa - Report)

We encounter German every day in the USA: In New York you can buy pretzels (Bretzel) at the kiosk on the corner and the "deli" down the street derives from the German word Delikatessen. Parents send their offspring to Kindergarten, and elsewhere the hard-drinking "Jägerdudes" (derived from Jägermeister) are partying again.

But also many technical terms that do not exist in English appear, for example, in the American media. Words such as Weltanschauung, Schadenfreude, Bildungsroman, Zeitgeist, Doppelgänger as well as Leitmotif with an "f" can be frequently spotted by alert readers of The New York Times.  Just recently, in connection with the US Open, the Los Angeles Times reported on the successful playing of the "deutsche Fräuleins."

By virtue of Germany's tradition as the country of "poets and thinkers" many of these so-called "loanwords" originate from the fields of literature, science, and classical music. From literary giants such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, significant composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven to influential philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Germans have left lasting marks on our history of ideas and cultural legacy. Mastering German gives one access to these works in their original language, which in its turn brings about new impressions and experiences. Thus for university students in particular a knowledge of German is a great advantage.

German – Number one native language in Europe

Deutschlandkarte im Kohlfeld Enlarge image (© dpa/picture-alliance, Wulf Pfeiffer)

German is the most widely spoken native language in Europe. On the one hand, this is because of Germany's size, which with around 82 million inhabitants is the most populous country in the EU. On the other hand, German is also an official language in Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein as well as in Italy's South Tyrol. In addition, German plays a role as a recognized minority language in Denmark, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Approximately 55 million Europeans speak German as a foreign language. In Hungary, German is increasingly popular with students and is number one among foreign languages. Around the world German is the third most taught foreign language and after English the second most popular in Europe and Japan.

Economic powerhouse Germany

Other good reasons to learn German are certainly Germany's strong economy and its leading position as a major export nation. In particular, German products such as cars and machines as well as food and pharmaceutical products are known throughout the world. Therefore the career opportunities that German companies offer young German-speaking Americans are another reason to learn German.

German is easier to learn than you think

Students' study group (c) www.colourbox.com Enlarge image (© www.colourbox.com)

German and English go back to the same roots in the West Germanic language family. Although the linguistic affinity has been somewhat blurred by the influence of the French language, the common origins are unmistakable. Thus even today English and German have much in common in terms of vocabulary and grammatical structures, which makes it easier for an English native speaker to learn German.

Considering the common roots of both countries and the large number of Americans of German descent it is enriching to converse not only in English but also in German.

Do Deutsch – Learning German at American universities

Precisely for these reasons the German Embassy set as its goal with the campaign "Do Deutsch Campus Weeks" to promote German as a foreign language at American universities. At over 40 partner universities across the nation German departments and their students are organizing diverse events that highlight German language and culture. The goal of these Campus Weeks, held between September and December depending on the university, is to inspire young people to learn German.


This article was produced by Germany.info and originally appeared in the magazine German World (Fall 2011 Education Special).