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Have you ever wondered “should I learn German?” or “why learn German?”
There are plenty of good reasons to learn how to speak German.
Deutsch was the fourth language I learned to speak fluently. I got to spend three months living in Berlin, Europe’s capital of cool. I met some amazing people, and made some lifelong friends. I loved every minute of my three month German mission.
I’ve worked hard to maintain German fluency in the years since I completed the mission. It’s a language I love, and I think you would too if you learned it.
Not sure whether you should study German? Here are 10 great reasons to study German.
1. You'll Find a Whole New Internet
Got a personal blog that’s missing an audience? Perhaps you should consider writing it in German, as well as your own language.
Germans have a dominant Internet presence. Germany’s top-level country domain of .de used to be second only in the world to .com. In 2016 it ranked at around fifth, coming in after .com, .ru (Russia), .net and .org.
Some 5.8% of websites are written in German, just behind Russian’s 5.9%.
There’s a whole new Internet to be discovered for German speakers. Do you really want to miss out?
2. You Can Attend University in Germany for $0.00
Who says you have to spend a fortune to get a decent education?
It costs £9,000+ a year to study in the UK. American students, meanwhile, can end up saddled with a six-figure student loan.
In Germany? Tuition is free in most universities. Some institutions charge around €500 a semester.
And there’s no sacrifice in quality that comes with that. Many German universities are in the world’s top 100.
How has Germany got rid of fees? Two ways. First, a smaller percentage of students go to college – 27% percent, compared to the UK’s 48%. On top of that, universities are paid for by German taxpayers.
What about international students? In countries such as the UK, USA and Australia, degrees often cost twice as much for foreign students as they do for nationals. Astonishingly, this is not the case in Germany. Both domestic and international students benefit from a free education on undergraduate courses. Switzerland and Austria also offer education for much lower fees than elsewhere in the world.
What’s the catch? Although some courses are offered in English a large percentage are taught in German. Applicants have to prove their proficiency in German.
Why not learn German and get a free education?
What do Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Schumann and Wagner have in common? Apart from being famous composers, they all spoke and wrote in German.
Bringing things into the present, I’m sure you’ve heard of the likes of Rammstein, Kraftwerk and Milky Chance. These bands sing in German and English.
While we’re on the arts, some 80,000 new books are published in Germany each year. Only a small percentage of these are translated into other languages. All these books are only accessible to those who have a fluent grasp of German.
Plus, you’ll be able to read Kafka and Goethe as they were originally written, with nothing lost in translation.
4. Want to Make Money? Learn German
Did you know that Germany is the largest European trading partner with the US (and has a ranking of fifth overall)? Germany exports everything from vehicles and machines, to chemical products and metals.
If you’re interested in pursuing or strengthening a career in business, you’ll stand yourself in good stead by knowing the native language of your German business partners.
5. German is Easy for English Speakers to Learn
Here’s a little known fact: German and English belong to the same language family tree. That's why German is easy for English speakers.
Unlike French, Italian and Spanish, which are Romance languages, both English and German belong to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Some German words and expressions are still used regularly in English, such as angst, kindergarten and kitsch.
English was later influenced by French, Greek and Latin. However, if you strip English back to basics, the language most resembles German. Not convinced? Look at words such as Bruder (brother), Wasser (water) and Freund (friend).
You’ll be surprised by how many words you already know if you choose to learn German as a foreign language. If you’re an English speaker learning German, you’re at an advantage.
6. German is the Most Spoken Native Language in the European Union
With an estimated 175-200 million speakers worldwide, German is the eleventh most widely spoken language in the world. Considering that Germany is a country with a population of about 80 million people (compared to the US population of over 300 million), that’s nothing to scoff at.
Some 95 million people speak German as a first language, meaning there are around as many speakers of German as a second language as there are native speakers. Talking of native speakers, German is the native language of Germany, Austria and a decent chunk of Switzerland. As a result, German has the largest number of native speakers within the EU. That’s why, along with English and French, German is an official language of the European Union.
Many people in Central and Eastern Europe choose to learn German as a second language. Outside the EU, it’s the third most taught foreign language.
7. Germany has the Biggest Economy in Europe
In 2015, Germany had an economy of $3.4 trillion, making it the fourth largest economy worldwide, after China, the US and Japan. As far as world exports go, it once again sits comfortably at fourth on the list.
Compared to economies in Europe, it has a comfortable lead against both the UK and France, which in 2015, sat at $2.9 and $2.5 trillion respectively.
It’s also home to many international corporations, such as Volkswagen, Allianz, Birkenstock, Mercedes-Benz, Siemens and stacks of other brands that are recognised globally.
Having German language skills on your CV can help your career in so many ways.
8. Berlin is a Hotspot For Startups and Innovation
European capitals are great places to live for many reasons. Often, it’s because they seem like places of endless opportunities, whether that be within fashion, entertainment, or business.
If you want to live comfortably in cities like Paris and London, you’ll often find yourself paying extra for that luxury. It’s hard to focus on building a business or making a name for yourself, when you’re struggling to make rent. Fortunately, this isn’t so much the case in Germany’s capital, Berlin, a city where the cost of living is low and the quality of life is high.
Along with the cheap rent, Berlin is known for liberal thinking and is the capital of cool in central Europe. A new startup is created in the city every 20 minutes. Many of them have been hugely successful – check out SoundCloud, Delivery Hero and Clue.
If you’ve got an idea that you’re convinced is the next big thing, Berlin may be the city where you see your dream come true.
9. German is a Key Language for Science Nerds
At the turn of the 20th century, Germany was tipped to become the official language of science, thanks to the success of leading thinkers such as Max Planck and Sigmund Freud.
Then WWI happened and in the aftermath, Belgian, French and British scientists ostracised scientists from Germany and Austria by encouraging international boycotts. Matters didn’t improve much due to WW2. This led to a division between the scientific communities of Europe. German dominated central and the eastern Europe. French and English became prevalent in western Europe.
Since then, English has cemented its stronghold as the official language of science. Some scientists worry that this will affect the work of those who are forced to research and publish in a foreign language.
If you’re scientifically inclined (as I am), fluency in German will give you the upper-hand in understanding the works of the some great German minds, such as Albert Einstein. Plus, you’ll be supporting a great cause – that of keeping the scientific community multilingual.
One thing I’ve certainly noticed as I’ve travelled the world, is that along with Canadians and Australians, Germans are everywhere.
Germans earn good money and are entitled to at least 20 days of leave a year (some get six weeks!). This gives them the time and money to travel, most commonly to foreign countries. And what do they do? They spend, spend, spend – around €80 billion a year – making them the nation with the largest outbound tourist trade in the world.
Germany has an enviable position geographically within the EU (dead centre), but that doesn’t stop them from travelling nearly everywhere else in the world – Africa, Asia and the Americas.
If you work within the tourism industry, speaking German will give you a big advantage.
And if you suffer from a severe case of wanderlust? You’ll have more opportunities to make friends with the German speakers you bump into on your travels.