By Andreas Weishaupt, BA, Former trainee at the Goethe Institut – Amsterdam.
With an approximate 100 million native speakers1 and increasing demand for language courses, German is far from becoming a dead language
English is without a doubt the lingua franca of our times, be it in politics or diplomacy, in sciences, the economy or in the media. America’s position as the world’s power house and the global rise of the Internet hugely stimulated the language’s popularity. Anglicisms and americanisms can be found in any country, any newspaper, and in many household‘s daily communication. But is English really the only language that matters? Some scholars predict that in the long run, German might give way to other languages such as English or Chinese. Others, such as Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermanns, see German as the key to a constructive EU. In an interview titled “The Dutch should speak more German“, which he gave to German newspaper “Die WELT“ back in 2012, Timmermanns suggests a closer cooperation with the EU’s current economic leader – also by learning its language2.
In the Netherlands, German has long been on every school‘s curriculum. Whereas students nowadays often regard English as more important, there is a constantly high demand for language courses among adults, especially business professionals. “The Netherlands are more oriented towards England instead of Germany, although Germany’s development is of more important to us“, said Timmermanns, who is also an ambassador for “Mach Mit!“, a program designed to promote the German language. The Goethe-Institutes in Amsterdam and Rotterdam offer specialised German courses for business communication as well as cultural trainings that are meant to improve bilateral interactions. Especially when dealing with smaller companies, it can be a huge asset to be able to operate in their respective native language.
In commerce with Germany the language has an enormous strategic importance said King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands during a visit at the end of May 2014 to the neighbouring Bundesland of Northern-Rhine Westphalia. His spouse, Queen Máxima went further by announcing that she is to learn German. As a matter of fact she is the first non-German consort to a Dutch monarch in over 100 years.
This increase in interest reflects the rise of Germany to becoming the EU’s strongest and most stable economy. Furthermore, the recent 11th meeting of German-speaking heads of states in Rostock3, initiated by Germany’s President Joachim Gauck, demonstrated the language’s prevalence in other countries, where it is being spoken by about 100 million native speakers. Official language in Austria, Liechtenstein, and Germany; as one of several official languages in Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, and the Alsace region in France. Making German the mother tongue with the most native speakers in Europe.
English may be the choice that first comes to mind, but when it comes to European affairs, knowing German, too, is highly important and profitable. And with powers shifting in East and West, with Asia on the rise and Germany as the strongest player in Europe, who knows what the future might bring.