German is the most widely spoken language in Europe.
More people speak German as their native language than any other language in Europe. It’s no wonder, since Germany’s 83 million inhabitants make it the most populous European nation. But not only the residents of Germany speak German. It is also an official language of Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein. And it is the native language of a significant portion of the population in northern Italy, eastern Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, eastern France, parts of Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Romania, as well as in other parts of Europe.
While learning German can connect you to 120 million native speakers around the globe, remember that many people also learn German as a second language. It is the 3rd most popular foreign language taught worldwide and the second most popular in Europe and Japan, after English.
Knowing German creates business opportunities.
Germany’s economic strength equals business opportunities. Multinational business opportunities exist throughout the European Union and in the Eastern European countries, where German is the second most spoken language after Russian. Companies like BMW, Daimler, Siemens, Lufthansa, SAP, Bosch, Infineon, BASF, and many others need international partners. The Japanese, who have the 2nd most powerful economy in the world, understand the business advantages that a knowledge of German will bring them: 68% of Japanese students study German.
If you’re looking for employment in the United States, knowing German can give you great advantages. German companies account for 700,000 jobs in the United States, and US companies have created approximately the same number of jobs in Germany. All other things being equal, the job candidate with German skills will trump the one without such skills every time. Most surveyed companies in the United States would choose someone with German literacy over an equally qualified candidate.
Germans form the largest single heritage group in the U.S.
If you’re American or are interested in American culture, learning German can expand your appreciation and knowledge of U.S. history and culture. In the year 2000 census, 42.8 million or 15.2% of Americans reported having German ancestry, making German Americans the largest single heritage group in the U.S.
In waves of immigration that span nearly 4 centuries, Germans brought with them many customs and traditions that have become so ingrained in American ways that their origin is often forgotten. Family names and names of thousands of towns and cities indicate the German heritage of their ancestors or founders. Such cultural mainstays as kindergarten, the Christmas tree, and hot dogs and hamburgers were introduced by German immigrants to America. They founded multiple breweries, created Levi’s jeans, invented ketchup, and created Hershey’s chocolate. Germans had such a fundamental presence at the time of the founding of the United States that a German language version of the Declaration of Independence was printed only a few days after it was adopted.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
German is required or recommended by many undergraduate and graduate programs.
German speakers’ strong contributions in such a broad array of fields makes the language an important asset in many disciplines. At the University of California, for instance, more majors recommend a knowledge of German as an important supplement than any other language (German: 56 majors, French: 43 majors, Spanish: 21 majors, Japanese: 7 majors). These majors include a wide range of subjects — from biology, physics, and chemistry to linguistics, religious studies, and art history.
Considering the importance of the German language in the fields of publishing and research, it’s not surprising that many graduate schools want their graduates to have at least a reading knowledge of German. Knowing German gives graduates access to important research published in German books and professional journals.
German-speaking countries have a rich cultural heritage.
Goethe’s Faust is one of the world’s great literary masterpieces.
Apart from their many contributions to American culture, the German speakers have a rich cultural heritage in their own right. Germany is often referred to as the land of “Dichter und Denker” — of poets and thinkers. And rightly so, because German contributions to the arts and human thought have been nothing short of profound.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, and Hermann Hesse are just a few authors whose names and works are well-known internationally. 10 Nobel prizes for literature have been awarded to German, Austrian, and Swiss German authors. The world of classical music is inseparable from the names of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Strauss, and Wagner to name only a few reknowned German-speaking composers. Vienna remains an international center of music today. From the magnificent architecture of medieval buildings to the avant garde Bauhaus movement, from Dürer’s woodcuts to the expressionist masterpieces of Nolde, Kirchner, and Kokoschka, Germans have made substantial contributions to world art and architecture.
Philosophy and the sciences would also be unthinkable without the contributions of German speakers. The philosophies of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and numerous others have had lasting influences on modern society. The psychologists Freud and Jung forever changed the way we think about human behavior. Scientists from the three major German-speaking countries have won dozens of Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, and medicine.
Knowing German allows you to access the works of these people in their original language and to fully understand the culture whence they derived. Anyone interested in these fields automatically expands her knowledge and skill by knowing German.