Why learn German?
There are over 170 million German speakers worldwide, almost half of whom speak it as a second language. Another 30 million speak some kind of German dialect. It’s a good language to know if you are a scientist or scholar, and it’s very useful to be able to speak German if you travel for business or pleasure in Europe.
Business, Science and Industry
German is also a major language of communication in business, trade and tourism. Germany is an economic leader in the European Union and ranks among the largest economies worldwide. Many international companies are based in Germany, and it is recognized as one of the top exporters and importers in the world.
It is the second most frequently used language in the global scientific community, after English. Around a tenth of the world’s publications on medicine, chemistry, physics and engineering are released in German, many of which are not translated into English.
Better travel experiences
By learning to speak German you’ll also greatly improve your travel experiences, even when simply for pleasure. There is nothing quite like visiting a traditional Biergarten and being able to have a conversation with the locals over Bratwurst and Hefeweizen. When you speak the local language, you aren’t limited in the kinds of interactions you can have. Stepping off the tourist track and becoming immersed in the culture completely transforms your experience in another country.
Having a conversation in another language is not only thrilling; you will also impress the locals and earn a degree of respect. Because many Germans speak English well, the misconception has developed that they only speak English to foreigners. This is not true at all; they are just being polite and will always do what they can to make communication easier. If you try to speak German with native speakers and they reply in English, do not be offended or discouraged. Simply tell them “Ich spreche lieber Deutch” (I prefer to speak German) and they will most likely oblige and be pleased to see you taking an interest in their language.
Numerous studies have proven that speaking a second language improves memory, multi-tasking skills and decision making. It’s also been shown to keep your brain more resilient in old age. Understanding more languages means having more connections in your brain; more connections mean a faster, stronger, better brain. Knowing German will also deepen your knowledge of English, since it’s like English’s great-grandfather; almost half of all English words have a Germanic origin. Even if you never leave the United States, learning another language will strengthen your mind’s overall performance.
The language is intimately entwined with the development of Western art and culture; the German-speaking world has given us the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Kraftwerk; the films of Fritz Lang, Werner Herzog and Michael Haneke; the literature of Goethe, Thomas Mann and Elfriede Jelinek; the artworks of Caspar David Friedrich, Paul Klee and Hannah Höch; the Bauhaus school of design; the philosophy of Hegel and Nietzsche; and the theories of Freud and Einstein. Immersing yourself in the language will allow you to fully experience the heart and soul of Western thought.
Prominence of the language across Europe
One out of four Europeans is conversant in German, the lingua franca of East and Central Europe. It’s the official language not only in Germany, but also in Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. There are also German-speaking minorities in Denmark, Holland, eastern Belgium, eastern France, Italy, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic and Russia. It’s the most widely spoken European language, and German native speakers comprise the largest group in the European Union.
Differences between Standard and Swiss Versions The large majority in Germany, Luxembourg and Austria speak Standard German or Hochdeutsch, while Schweizerdeutsch is spoken in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Swiss German pronunciation is distinct from Hochdeutsch, and numerous words are unique to the vocabulary, including terms adapted from French.
Learn German with Babbel
It’s no surprise that German has become the third most-studied foreign language in the U.S. But for those of us without the time or money to enroll in traditional classes, Babbel provides an effective, economical option to learn the language. Enjoy Babbel on your computer, tablet or smartphone; your progress is synced across all devices so you can fit a lesson in any time, anywhere. Beginners find it fun and easy to speak German in record time, but it’s also a perfect way to brush up your skills if you are returning to the German language after many years. And you don’t have to do it alone: Babbel’s integrated speech recognition listens to you speak and helps corrects your pronunciation, while Babbel’s online community enables you to practice your language skills with fellow learners and native speakers worldwide.