Thinking about learning German? You should! Here are ten reasons why you should learn German.
1. Lots of people to talk to
There are 100 million native German speakers, and 80 million people speak German as a second language. It’s spoken throughout a good chunk of Europe, notably Germany and Austria. (German is also spoken in Switzerland, but it’s quite a bit different from the standard or “high” German you’d learn from a course.)
You’d get plenty of opportunities to meet new people, make friends, and make small talk with people you encounter.
You know the story about the guy who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for something? That’s straight from Faust, by the German author Goethe. If you learn German, you get to read Goethe’s original text.
In fact, there’s plenty of great German literature out there.
3. Plenty of free courses
Speaking of Goethe, the Goethe Institute is an organization dedicated to providing German language resources. They have a ton of free language courses and resources that they developed with the radio station Deutsche Welle. Some of my favorites include:
- Deutsch – Warum Nicht? – A radio course that covers the basics really well.
- Jojo sucht das Glück - A telenovela that has a lot of colloquial speech.
- Slow news – Selected news articles spoken slowly, with a transcript
Knowing a little German would help you get around at the fests. Of course there’s the heavy hitter, Oktoberfest. Having lived in Stuttgart, I have a soft spot for their Frühlingsfest (Spring Fest) and Cannstatter Volksfest (Fall Fest). Really, you can’t go wrong with any fests in Germany.
Also, you should probably brush up on German to avoid any misunderstandings like Clark Griswold had:
5. Work and business
Despite the financial woes some European countries are experiencing, Germany’s economy is going strong. If you’re interested in working with Germans and German countries, German is a great language to know. Even though many Germans speak English fluently, companies are more comfortable speaking in the local tongue.
When I lived in Germany, I heard stories of a large company that brought over American IT professionals. They’d tell the Americans that they would speak English to them the first six months, but after that they would talk to them only in German.
If you haven’t heard of Seeed, the reggae band out of Berlin fronted by Peter Fox, then you are missing out. They blend Caribbean beats and sensibilities with percussive German lyrics. And you can appreciate those lyrics better if you speak German.
You can listen to some of Seeed’s stuff at their MySpace page.
There are other great German musicians out there too, like Xavier Naidoo, Cro, Blumio, and Die Ärzte.
7. You can outdo Mark Twain
Mark Twain tried to learn German and had difficulty, as evidenced by his hilarious essay “The Awful German Language.”
If you learn German, you’ll be doing something that caused a literary genius “great difficulty and annoyance.”
8. The Beer Purity law
The Reinheitsgebot, or “Beer Purity Law,” was a law enacted in Bavaria in the 15th century that said that beer could only be made with water, barley, and hops. The result is a beer without additives, and trust me when I say that you can taste the quality of German beer.
The Reinheitsgebot has been replaced by more complicated beer purity laws, but many brewers still adhere to it out of tradition (and advertise the fact).
(Unrelated note: I found the picture of the beer bike in Wikimedia Commons, which provides a lot of the royalty free images I use. Coincidentally, I used to work with the photographer who uploaded this pic. Gary, if you’re reading this, this is Ron who used to work with you out at the old gym. Thank you for the great picture.)
9. German is similar to English
Okay, I’m saying that somewhat tongue in cheek, because even though English and German are both “Germanic” languages, the differences between them are staggering.
At the very least, though, studying German will give you insight on the origins of English words. For example, when you learn that the German word König means king, then you can guess where we got the word from.
10. You get to live in Germany
Germany is a beautiful place, with lots of amazing natural beauty, culture, arts, and entertainment. If you want to live there, though, you’ll probably have to learn Deutsch.
Most (but not all) German universities require that you speak German before you can study there. If you are a fiancé of a German and require a Visa, you’ll need to show a basic German proficiency. And if you’re planning on a longer stay, you’ll need to prove a higher level of German proficiency. (Laws change, so I won’t get into any more details than that.)
The bottom line is that if you’re planning a serious stay in Germany, get ready to prove that you know the local lingo.
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