Let’s start off by debunking the myth that German is especially hard. Despite all the jokes that are being made about it being an impossible language, if you are an English speaker, you are actually already quite advantaged.
This is because German and English share the same Germanic root. Consequently, there are many thousands of words which are closely related known as “cognates.” For example, the English chin is Kinn in German. Water becomes Wasser and father turns into Vater. Not so hard after all, is it?
Furthermore, unlike Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, or Arabic, there is no new alphabet to learn, only a few letters to add. If you already know Latin script (and if you do not, I am incredibly amazed you have been following the article this far) the only new arrivals will be the umlauts ä, öand ü as well as ß which is just a fancy German s.
And that’s not all. There are more shortcuts for learning German fast. It’s really not the time sink that so many people make it out to be. You just have to learn how to study smart rather than study hard.
It is said that Germany is the country of poets and thinkers – Das Land der Dichter und Denker. There is definitely no denying the second part. A large percentage of the world’s most impressive achievements were first conceived of in German.
Over one hundred Nobel Prizes have gone to brilliant Germans for accomplishments in physics, medicine, chemistry, literature and other areas. That is not even counting the prizes awarded to people from the other two major German-speaking countries Austria and Switzerland. Plus, many of the recipients from other nations received their training at German universities.
So if you are looking to add a Nobel Prize to your resume, learning German might not be a bad place to start. Perhaps you have slightly lower goals, and are just looking to absorb some of this genius by reading famous publications in their native language.
With that big a number of award-winning scientists from its home country, it might not come as a surprise that German is very important in the academic community. In fact, it ranks second as the most commonly used scientific language.
One of the reasons for this is that the German book market is the third largest in the world, right after the Chinese and English publishing industries. Since the percentage of these books that are being translated into other languages is fairly limited, only a knowledge of German will give you access to them.
One of the reasons why German has such a high standing in the science community is the fact that Germany’s universities have an excellent international reputation. In the year 2011 ,the country was the fourth most popular destination for students from abroad with more than a quarter million foreigners being enrolled in German schools.
What’s more, the German system for higher education boasts a number of universities with a very low or non-existent tuition fee. No wonder scholars and researchers are flocking there! Learning German to save on student debt sounds like a pretty good return of investment.
German is not only an interesting option for academics, but also those in the business world should consider brushing up on their Deutsch. Germany is the biggest economy within the European Union and the fourth largest worldwide. It is home to numerous international corporations and on the front line of new technologies.
While the schooling system in Germany is set up in a way that every German citizen knows at least some English, communicating with someone in their native tongue is a sign of good faith that is appreciated everywhere. Knowing the language of your German business partners can greatly improve your chances for effective communication and successful professional relationships.
Speaking of German companies: want to work for a business which is an international market leader in its field? Having German skills on your resume might be able to help you get in the door.
Germany is home to a large number of economic global players. Siemens, Volkswagen, Adidas and Lufthansa are globally recognized brands and corporations. The country also hosts some of the biggest international trade fairs including CeBIT, the world’s largest exhibition for information technology, as well as the IFA trade fair for consumer electronics.
Meanwhile the German capital Berlin is turning into a hub for innovative startups. Some go so far as to dub it “the Silicon Valley of Europe.” As a consequence, knowing German has the potential to greatly enhance your career opportunities.
English, French and German are the three official working languages of the European Union. In absolute numbers, German is the second most-spoken language on the continent of Europe. However, when it comes to native speakers, German is number one.
For centuries the language served as a lingua franca (a common language which unifies different peoples) in large parts of the European continent. It continues to serve this purpose as an important second language in central and eastern Europe. In the English-speaking world, German is also the third most taught foreign language. In addition to that it comes in at tenth place as one of the major languages of the world. That’s not too shabby for a relatively small country.
It may not have the numbers behind it that Chinese does, but knowing German gives you approximately 100 million additional people to talk to. Not such a small pool after all!
You don’t even have to meet those 100 million people in the real world. You can do so from the convenience of your own home! German websites make up a huge part of the internet. In fact, in terms of domain endings that are clearly affiliated with a particular country, Germany’s .de is the most popular top-level domain out there. I know, I’m as surprised as you are.
Knowing German gives you access to an additional 15 million websites and that is not even counting the German sites ending in .net, .org and .info. Of course, in terms of absolute numbers .de takes second place to .com which is way ahead of everything else. Second place in the whole worldwide web? Not bad at all, Germany, not bad at all.
Even if you are not planning on going to a German-speaking country or are reluctant to stalk German speakers on the internet, don’t worry: they will find you. If you have traveled abroad, you have likely witness this phenomenon firsthand. Germany’s citizens are some of the world’s most voracious travelers. With almost six weeks of annual leave and plenty of disposable income, you can run into them allover the globe.
In fact, German people are record holders when it comes to money spent on international travel. For years they invested more in globetrotting than anyone else. It is only lately that they had to cede the pole position to tourists from China. However, that did not keep them from spending an impressive 84 billion dollars on traveling in 2012!
Those of you in the tourist industry can tap into this market with German-speaking guides and staff. If you are just looking to make friends on the road, a little German can make a big difference when you bump into a native German speaker.
Though Germans have a reputation for being left-brained, analytical and in love with logic, the German-speaking world has also produced some of the greatest literary, musical, artistic and philosophical minds in human history. It is the language of the famous written works of Goethe, Kafka, Brecht and Mann. It was the native language of composers Mozart, Bach, Schubert, Beethoven and Wagner. Revolutionary philosophy poured onto the pages in German when pens were first lifted by Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.
Learning German gives you the opportunity to appreciate the masterpieces of these artists in their original form. It lets you tap into parts of the world’s cultural heritage in a direct and unfiltered manner. Goethe’s “Faust” alone, which is written completely in rhyme form, is well worth the effort. Wouldn’t it be cool to pick up some of your favorite works in German and discover the true meaning of the original text for yourself?
Can understand and use familiar, everyday expressions and very simple sentences, which relate to the satisfying of concrete needs. Can introduce him/herself and others as well as ask others about themselves – e.g. where they live, who they know and what they own – and can respond to questions of this nature. Can communicate in a simple manner if the person they are speaking to speaks slowly and clearly and is willing to help.
Can understand sentences and commonly used expressions associated with topics directly related to his/her direct circumstances (e.g. personal information or information about his/her family, shopping, work, immediate surroundings). Can make him/herself understood in simple, routine situations dealing with a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and common topics. Can describe his/her background and education, immediate surroundings and other things associated with immediate needs in a simple way.
Can understand the main points when clear, standard language is used and the focus is on familiar topics associated with work, school, leisure time, etc. Can deal with most situations typically encountered when travelling in the language region. Can express him/herself simply and coherently regarding familiar topics and areas of personal interest. Can report on experiences and events, describe dreams, hopes and goals as well as make short statements to justify or explain his/her own views and plans.
Can understand the main contents of complex texts on concrete and abstract topics; also understands specialized discussions in his/her own primary area of specialization. Can communicate so spontaneously and fluently that a normal conversation with native speakers is easily possible without a great deal of effort on either side. Can express him/herself on a wide range of topics in a clear and detailed manner, explain his/her position on a current issue and indicate the benefits and drawbacks of various options.
Can understand a wide range of challenging, longer texts and also grasp implicit meanings. Can express him/herself spontaneously and fluently without having to search for words frequently and noticeably. Can use the language effectively and flexibly in his/her social and professional life or in training and studies. Can make clear, structured and detailed statements on complex topics and apply various means of text association appropriately in the process.
Can effortlessly understand practically everything which he/she reads or hears. Can summarize information from various written and spoken sources, logically recounting the reasons and explanations. Can express him/herself spontaneously with high fluency and precision and also make finer nuances of meaning clear in more complex topics.