Why Learn German? 12 Reasons To Learn the Language of Poets and Thinkers
German, although it sometimes gets a bad rap, is one of the world’s great languages.
130 million people speak German, and it’s an official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein—seven of Europe’s most dynamic and interesting countries. Hello Alps, autobahn, Berlin, Vienna, Beethoven, bratwurst and Swiss fondue.
To get you motivated on your German learning path, we’ve compiled 12 compelling reasons to start (or continue) learning German today.
- 1. German Is Easy to Learn
- 2. It’s the Language of Inventors, Innovators and Engineers
- 3. German Is Important in Academia
- 4. Germany Is an Economic Powerhouse
- 5. It’s the Most Widely Spoken Native Language in Europe
- 6. Germans Are Everywhere
- 7. German Culture Is Part of Our Global Heritage
- 8. The German-speaking Countries Have a Grand Artistic Legacy
- 9. Germany Has a Long and Storied Musical History
- 10. German Literature Is Some of the World’s Best
- 11. German Will Make Your Travels Easier
- 12. German Food and Drink Is Delicious
- The Case for Learning German
1. German Is Easy to Learn
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, the only new arrivals will be the umlauts ä, ö and ü as well as the eszett (ß), which is a character that sometimes replaces the double s in German.
2. It’s the Language of Inventors, Innovators and Engineers
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 100 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. And don’t forget innovative German products like BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars and the invention of aspirin. Thanks, Bayer!
3. German Is Important 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. 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.
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.
5. It’s 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.
6. 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 witnessed 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 all over 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!
7. German Culture Is Part of Our Global 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. 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?
8. The German-speaking Countries Have a Grand Artistic Legacy
Germany’s artistic legacy is huge and includes the very first European depiction of a rhinoceros. From the Renaissance masterpieces of Albrecht Dürer to the Expressionist movement led by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Germany is often at the forefront of cutting-edge art and this continues to the modern era.
In the 1960s, German artists again expanded the definition of what art could be. Artists Joseph Beuys, who was one of the founding members of the Fluxus movement, incorporated unconventional performance art into his work. He also turned everyday objects—like a ceramic urinal—into museum pieces.
Today, Berlin continues this legacy as one of the global contemporary art capitals.
9. Germany Has a Long and Storied Musical History
You don’t need much more than the following names to realize how huge Germany’s influence on the world’s music has been: Bach, Händel, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schumann, Wagner and Mozart.
Quite simply put, most of classical music was written in the German-speaking parts of Europe.
Today, German music has lost some influence, but there are still some more recent hits like Nena’s “99 Luftballons” and the world-famous metal band Rammstein, formed in Berlin in 1994. For a taste of today’s pop culture, check out Milky Chance and Xavier Naidoo.
10. German Literature Is Some of the World’s Best
German literature’s grandfather, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, wrote, for the first time, about human nature, the human psyche and about the complexities of human emotion. He also wrote the first coming-of-age novel.
Germany also has the Brothers Grimm, who pioneered the fairy tale, with dark tales that are still told today.
And the way that those works of literature reached a worldwide audience was because of German technology: the Gutenberg printing press. This allowed books to be reproduced mechanically for the first time, so many thousands of copies could be printed in the time it used to take one scribe to make one handwritten copy.
And don’t forget the German philosophers. The literature of Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger have had an enormous impact on world philosophy, forming the basis of many more recent theories and influencing everyone from Sigmund Freud to Slavoj Žižek.
11. German Will Make Your Travels Easier
Speaking German is useful when traveling to Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but it’s also helpful in the border regions of Belgium and France, tiny Luxembourg and Liechtenstein and even in northern Italy, where some villages speak German.
It’s also useful as a second language when visiting many other countries, where not everyone speaks English as a second language. Because of historical ties to East Germany, many people speak German as their second language, especially in Poland, the former Soviet republics (Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc.) and the Balkans (Serbia, North Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro).
You’d be surprised how far German can get you in much of the globe.
12. German Food and Drink Is Delicious
German cuisine is, quite simply, super delicious and totally unpretentious at the same time. It’s comfort food and sausage, schnitzel and potatoes—the kind of hearty food you want when a salad just won’t satisfy.
Though the country is famous for its rich dishes and pork products, there are also many vegetarians in Germany. In fact, the country has one of the world’s highest vegetarian rates, with out 10% of the population not eating meat.
And there’s also plenty of beer. The country has over 5,000 independent breweries, some dating back almost 1000 years. What many people don’t realize is that the country also produces some world-class wine, especially crisp, clean whites that pair super well with German dishes.
The Case for Learning German
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, I hope this post has shown you why German is well worth learning!
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