Saturday, March 7, 2015




Want to Learn a New Language? 6 Reasons to Consider German

It's safe to say that the German language has suffered over the past 100 years. Much of the blame for this falls on German citizens and policies from the early-to-mid 20th century, the ramifications of which still haunt the nation today. There's a stigma attached to German (perhaps unfairly at this point) that will take decades to fully disappear. 
Because of this, German isn't always near the top your typical language learner's wishlist. Yet there are myriad reasons why learning German is a terrific investment of time and brainpower. As socio-linguist Ulrich Ammon explains in an interview over at Deutsche Welle, there are plenty of reasons why German is an attractive language for learners and why German leaders have an incentive to promote it to the outside world. Here are six of those reasons:

1. GNP, Baby: According to Ammon, German ranks 10th in the world with 104 million native speakers. But when we consider the GNP yielded per language, German ranks much higher:
"In that regard, the German language is in fourth place. English comes in first, followed by Chinese and Spanish. So you could say that the economic potential associated with native German speakers holds a lot of weight."
If you're entering the world of international business, German is hugely practical. Which leads to reason number 2:
2. The Networking, oder der Rechnerverbund: English may be the international language of business, but a country's vernacular is still the language of in-depth networking:
"People know that you get further in a country if you speak the local and the official language and not just English. For networking and approaching clients, and partially also for business communication, knowing German gives you an additional advantage."
3. Make Your English Gooder: Yes, that's a joke. One of the reasons why learning a language is so useful is that it allows you a context to identify what appears to be innate in your own vernacular. I'm a big fan of the English Grammar for Students of... series of books because they place a keen focus on the nitty-gritty of grammar and syntax in both the native and learned languages. Since German sentence structure is different from English (infinitives go at the end, for example), mastering it opens your eyes to anatomy of language.

4. It's Not All That Hard: If you're sick of all your Mandarin-learning friends going on and on about how hard it is to learn a new language, picking up German is a great way to stick it to them. English is a mutt of a language, but mostly rooted in the Germanic linguistic structure. That means there are plenty of cognates. A cognate is a word that is similar to its other-language equivalent. "Hunde" in the photo above means "dogs." It's very similar to the English word "hounds." Other German words that are probably easy to decipher: Alkohol, Medizin, Perspektive.

5. There's a rich cultural and scientific heritage: As the Goethe Institute notes, "German is the language of Goethe, Kafka, Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven," among others. It's also the second most commonly used language in the science world and "the third largest contributor to research and development." There are a ton of primary sources out there in German just begging you to learn to read them. Don't let those primary sources down!
Also, the Bundesliga is by far the most exciting major football/soccer league and it's awesome watching Paderborn take on Dortmund in German. So that's an incentive too.

6. O is for Opportunity, G is for Gelegenheit: According to the Goethe Institute, Germany offers "a generous number of scholarships and other support to study." I can attest — getting a visa to spend time learning within German borders is a breeze and many young foreigners from a range of countries are taking advantage. Exchange programs are also a popular option that allows for a valuable immersion experience. On the domestic side, knowing German is really valuable in industries such as travel, tourism, business, and academia. If you're interested in relocating, there are plenty of similar opportunities in German-speaking countries. 

If you're considering learning a new language, hopefully you'll give German a thoughtful glance. It's understandable if you're learning Spanish for cultural reasons or Mandarin for a business advantage or Japanese because you simply love anime, but remember also what German is the language of: efficiency, business acumen, pretzels, .... and Oktoberfest.

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