German has a lot going for it — it’s the second most spoken language in Europe, it unlocks prospects for the fourth biggest economy in the world, and it claims over 130 million native speakers. The reasons to speak this challenging language are so numerous that we could probably write a whole book, but we’ll contain ourself to five (okay, maybe six). Without further ado, here are our top reasons to learn German:
Reason 1: German and English share the same linguistic DNA
English is classified as a Germanic language because, guess what? — it evolved from German! Even though Latin and French have had a big influence on English over the centuries, German is still English’s Großvater.
This proximity on the linguistic family tree means that English speakers have a very helpful head start when we start to learn German. In fact, 26% of English vocabulary has shared roots with German. Several languages vie for the coveted “easiest language for English speakers to learn” title, and while French and Spanish are popular choices, German — our “grandfather language” — is certainly worth considering.
Reason 2: Discover a new side of yourself
Many language learners attest to having slightly different personalities in different languages. Distinct intonations, accents and gestures are inextricably linked to language. Accommodating to this requires an adjustment to the way one naturally behaves in social settings. In German, this means being direct (which is undoubtedly one of the best reasons to learn German if you’re from a wishy-washy English-speaking country). This may sound a little intimidating, but don’t worry! You’ll notice a gradual, organic change as you become more proficient at expressing yourself in new ways and different aspects of your personality shine through.
Reason 3: Oktoberfest is waaaaaay more fun when you speak German
Yes, you can get by in Germany as a tourist without speaking much German, and sure, wearing a Dirndl or Lederhosen and wielding a Maß of Helles might make you look Bavarian, but without some grasp of the language you can’t fully interface with any place you visit. Speaking to people in their language, and meeting them halfway, culturally, is the only real way into their world.
Reason 4: “Ich bin ein Berliner”
Since JFK immortalized the city in his famous 1963 speech, Germany’s capital city has gone from Cold War hotbed to cultural hotspot. Are you looking for a new career adventure? Germany has one of the strongest economies in the world, and its major cities, like Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, are attracting top talent from all over the world in the fields of engineering, entertainment, software development, publishing and the arts.
Reason 5: Be a brainiac
German is an important language in the fields of philosophy, science, history, literature and art. People looking to pursue graduate degrees in these fields often find that being able to read German is a prerequisite. Even if you don’t apply your German skills to such high-minded activities as master’s degrees and doctorates, learning another language is simply good for your brain. Studying a second language has been shown to improve memory, problem-solving skills, abstract reasoning, empathy and even postpones the onset of dementia! There’s really no good reason not to learn another language!
BONUS Reason 6: Discover your heritage
Over 15% of Americans claim some German heritage. Do you? If you are interested in reconnecting to your roots, there is no deeper and more direct way than by learning the language of your ancestry.