Study Abroad Student Handbook
Germany Germany
Center for Global Education

Why Learn a Language?

Worldwide, approximately 120 million people speak German. In all of Europe, more people speak German than any other language. This fact makes German the most widely spoken native language in Europe. European nations in which German is spoken include: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. German remains the mother tongue of people in parts of Belgium, France and the north of Italy as well. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, German is commonly spoken as a second language all over Eastern Europe. German is considered the language of business, diplomacy, and tourism in Eastern Europe and second only to English in Western Europe. The language is also spoken outside of Europe in various parts of South America, for example.

For employment reasons, the advantages of being bilingual in English and German are obvious. Germany's economic status as one of the three biggest world economies, along with the United States and China, make learning German even more important. While Germany's economy ranks at number three on a global scale, regionally, Germany's economy has been the driving force behind the European Union (EU). As Germany remains one of the leading and most influential economies in the European Union, a command of German proves to be essential for global and business communication.

German language skills afford study abroad students the right to access not only Germany's rich job market, but also the country's equally rich literary, philosophic, and scientific traditions. Germany is a giant in the publishing industry. One out of every ten books in the world is published in German. Imagine being able to read the works of greats like Einstein, Kant, and Nietzsche in their native language of German.

There are also benefits to learning German if you plan to travel. German can help you greatly all over Europe and Asia. If you needed to take just one language with you during your travels, German might just be an ideal tongue. As many Europeans who don't speak German as a first language choose to learn it for a second language, you may find it easier to communicate in German than attempting to learn phrases in all the languages represented by Europe. Beyond Europe, many students choose to learn German. For example, 68% of all Japanese students learn German. On your next trip to Japan, you may be able to rely on German rather than Japanese!

Yet another reason to learn German proves to be its similarity to the English language. German and English are part of the same language family. Therefore, many German words look and sound like English ones. In fact, when the founders of the United States were deciding on an official language, German was a very close runner-up to English. German was a very popular language and was widely taught in the United States until World War I. During the war, German was banned in 26 states, but was reinstated in the classroom again after WWI. One in every four Americans claims German heritage; learning German could help you explore your own family tree.

Read on – Why Study Abroad and find answers how study abroad can affect your personal growth and career path.

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