Are German language learners masochistic?
Isn’t there a more comfortable and fun way to pass your time than studying this complex language?
Off the top of my head I’m thinking it would be more enjoyable to, I don’t know…snort chili powder, walk on hot coals, or stab yourself repeatedly in the thigh with a fork.
“A person who has not studied German can form no idea of what a perplexing language it is. […] surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp.”
– Mark Twain, “The Awful German Language”
If it is such a darn slippery language, why on Earth would anyone in their right mind want to learn German?
I mean, c’mon. There are four noun cases, endless verb conjugations, umlauts, grammar rules with more exceptions than rules. Don’t even get me started on German pronunciation. Plus, don’t they only eat Sauerkraut and Bratwurst over there? I mean, I could get on board with the beer but there’s no way in hell I’m putting on a dirndl.
The Case for Learning German
Now that we are maxed out on stereotypes, let’s face it: out of the available languages in the world, German is not an obvious choice. There has to be a reason why so many people decide to hop on board the German train.
When contemplating learning a new language, you might be asking yourself if the Teutonic tongue is really worth the time and effort. After all, on a global scale German is used by relatively few people.
However, there are good reasons why this language is a good investment. Not just from a linguistic point of view, but also in terms of economic opportunity, networking potential and cultural gain. German is a worthwhile choice.
So whether you are still on the fence about giving the language a try or if you are already a student of German and looking for reassurance that you are not wasting your time, read on to find out why learning German is a good idea.
Why Should I Learn German? 10 Compelling Reasons
1. German is easy to acquire
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, ö and 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.
2. German is the language of inventors and innovators
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.
3. German is an important language in academia
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.
4. German is the gateway to a world-class higher education
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.
5. Germany is an economic powerhouse
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.
6. German companies are global market leaders
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.
7. German is the most widely spoken native language in Europe
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!
8. German has a big online presence
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.
9. Germans are everywhere
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.
10. German culture is part of the world heritage
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?
And One More Thing…
Now that you’re surely convinced learning German is the best idea you’ve ever had, it’s time to talk about how to get started.
Whether you’re a total newbie or trying to get back into the swing of German after a long lapse in your studies, FluentU is here to offer you a reliable source of fun and engaging native German material that covers a huge variety of subjects.
Since this is stuff native German speakers actually watch on the regular, you’ll be getting a true taste of how modern German is spoken in real life.
Just a quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content FluentU has on offer:
Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
And FluentU isn’t just for watching videos. It’s a complete platform for learning. It’s designed to effectively teach you all the vocabulary from any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. This is a level of personalization that hasn’t been done before.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.