The European language landscape: a tour of the German language

While there is a strategic interest in learning European languages, necessity is far from being the only guarantee of their sustainability: they have many other assets that justify their expansion worldwide.

German is spoken by 100 million native speakers, making it the European Union’s first language. It is the third most widely learned language in the EU, and there are around 15 million people worldwide currently learning German. German’s reputation as a difficult, guttural language and its association with the ideological excesses of the Second World War is fading, and the percentage of learners is rising sharply in secondary schools. 

The main incentive for learning German remains its utility in the business world. Germany is Europe’s leading economy, known for its competitiveness and industrial excellence. This is reflected in terms of job offers; German is the second most requested foreign language for European employers, after English. This industrial and entrepreneurial largesse also attracts migrant populations and stimulates the language-learning market. As well as having a strong economy, Germany actively welcomes immigrants and offers asylum. 

Beyond these considerations of work and migration, German is a language that arouses interest at all ages. A 2020 study of a sample of 400 adult German speakers found that half had decided to learn the language simply out of personal interest. The German language is accompanied by a prolific artistic and scientific culture that spans several centuries: Goethe, Freud, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Kafka, Arendt, Einstein, and Hertz among many have distinguished themselves in fields as varied as literature, music, chemistry, physics and philosophy. 

A tradition that continues with a wealth of published research (Germany is sixth in the ranking of countries that publish the most books!) and artistic works that have become popular throughout the Western world – who has not sung along to Nena’s 99 Luftballons?

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