Go to the homepage of this German Course Ten reasons to learn German University of Portsmouth
10. Ten reasons to learn German

1. European Union
As fellow members of the European Union, and amongst the eleven EU countries to introduce a single currency on 1 January 1999, our relations with Germany and Austria will be of pivotal importance to Britain in the 21st Century. Switzerland too is currently weighing up the pros and cons of joining the European Union.

Since the advent of the European Union, the international business community increasingly requires a thorough understanding of German to capitalize on multinational opportunities. 24% of the residents in the European Union speak German as their mother tongue, and 31% of European Union citizens say they can converse in German.

 Web Links 
European Union Find out more about German language and the European Union.
Switzerland & the EU How is Switzerland co-operating with the EU?

2. Business
Whilst German ranks 12th in the world in terms of the number of people who speak the language, it ranks third when measured in terms of GNP ($1,090 billion), behind only English and Japanese.

Germany is the world's third largest economy, and is the clear number one in Europe, producing more than one quarter of the European Union's gross domestic product. It is heavily reliant on foreign trade - it is the world's largest exporter and the second largest importer. With motor vehicles and industrial systems, chemicals and electronic devices to the fore, German products are sold in virtually all of the world's countries.

As the German population has a healthy disposable income and a penchant for quality, value-for-money products, Britain has a found a strong market for a broad range of products. In 2006, exports of goods and services from the UK to Germany were worth 42 billion and imports from Germany to the UK were worth 65 billion. Almost 1,000 British companies, including virtually all of the major UK multinationals, have subsidiaries in the country.

Austria takes over £1 billion of UK goods each year and has a long-established role in trade between Eastern and Western Europe. With over 40% of its borders being with former Eastern Bloc countries, Austria, and particularly Vienna, has an important role to play in trade with these emerging markets. Over 1000 foreign companies are already tackling these markets from Austrian bases - and using German to communicate!

For as Eberhard and Ruth Reichmann have discovered: "German as a foreign language is again becoming increasingly important in the countries of Middle and Eastern Europe, where elementary school students chose German (49%) over English (44%). The number of German students in the Czech Republic rose 33% in the past four years now that Russian is no longer required."

Germany Trade and Invest Germany Trade and Invest is the foreign trade and inward investment agency of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Exporting to Germany A guide from the Government organisation UK Trade & Investment on how to export to Germany.
BCCG The homepage of the British Chamber of Commerce in Germany.
Exporting to Austria A guide from the Government organisation UK Trade & Investment on how to export to Austria.
Exporting to Switzerland A guide from the Government organisation UK Trade & Investment on how to export to Switzerland.
Forum Wirtschaftsdeutsch A linklist for learning Business German and improving your language skills.

3. Trade fairs
Many of Germany's products are premiered at the large number of international trade fairs and exhibitions held each year in the country. Attended by buyers from the whole world over, these trade fairs - including CeBIT, the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin or Hanover's Industry Trade Fair - are often the largest in their sectors. In fact, more "world's largest" trade fairs are held in Germany than in any other country.

4. Creating the right impression
Although English-speaking firms are often heard to say about their German trading partners that "their English is so good that we do not need to learn German", you will make a much better impression and stand a better chance of building your business if you can meet your partners half way. As Willy Brandt, the former German chancellor, once said: "If I'm selling to you, I speak your language. If I'm buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen."

And it is not only language but business culture which needs to be learned. Should you shake hands on meeting your German client? Should you call them "Du" or "Sie"? What are the German business and banking hours? It may be hard to correct a bad impression if you get these wrong!

5. Job prospects
With ever more firms opening subsidiaries on the European mainland, learning German is becoming an ever smarter career move. And with such German-based firms as Daimler, BASF, Bayer, Hoechst, BMW, Siemens and Volkswagen so firmly rooted on the international scene, learning German appears to be twice as sensible a career move!

At the moment, Germany is crying out for qualified software designers in particular, and German is the second most used language on the Internet.

6. Academic research
German is the second most commonly used language in which to write a work of scientific research - especially engineering, chemistry and physics. This is why more than 40% of American scientists recommend that their students should learn German. In Hungary and Poland the figure is even higher, at over 70%.

7. Culture
Many of the founding documents of European culture have been written in the German language.

  • Literature (Goethe, Schiller, Thomas Mann, Kafka)
  • Classical music (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart)
  • Art (Kollwitz, Dürer, Klee, Kaninsky)
  • Psychology (Freud, Jung)
  • Philosophy (Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Adorno)
  • Science (Einstein, Kepler, Röntgen, Planck, Virchow)

Reading or hearing them in the original language is the only way of appreciating their full power. Germany itself is the world's third biggest producer of books: 60,000 new German-language books are published every year. Every tenth book published in the world is written in German.

8. Tourism
It goes without saying that you gain more from a visit to a country if you can converse in their language and actually get to know the people rather than just conversing in English with your tour-guide. And as the Germans, Austrians and Swiss are well-known for their love of foreign travel, it makes sound commercial sense for people working in the tourist industry to meet them in their own language.

 Web Links 
German National Tourist Board Experience Germany as a tourist destination.
Austrian National Tourist Board Things to do and see as a visitor to Austria.
Switzerland Tourism Plan your holiday in Switzerland.
Liechtenstein National Tourist Office Holiday information from Vaduz.

9. Language similarities
German and English belong to the same West Germanic language family and share thousands of similar words and phrases, particularly in terms of computer, telecommunications and medical vocabulary.

10. Avoiding embarrassing mistakes
Want to know why Clairol had to think twice about launching the Mist Stick in Germany? Then go to the next page!

 Web Links 
Why learn German? Visit Mark Himmelein's German site.
Why learn German? Robert Shea makes the case for learning German.
Is German germane? Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.
Why learn German? Dartmouth College, USA.
Why learn German? Reasons to learn German from Paul Maseman.
Reasons to learn German Compiled by McKinnon Secondary College.
Why learn German? By Brian Zahn.

Weiter!Part 11: Lost in translation

Go back to the top of the page

Print this Document Print This Page

Homepage: Paul Joyce German Course
© Paul Joyce 2010