If you haven’t yet been exposed to a second language, you might be feeling quite uneasy about the concept of choosing one to study for the next two (or even more) years.
With so many to choose from, you may be thinking about which language could benefit you the most in the future: i.e. you might be asking yourself which one is spoken more widely, which one they speak at your usual summer holiday destination or which one could help you to advance your ideal career. However, you may also be looking for an easy ride and wondering which one is the easiest to learn!
Although German shares many similarities with English, acquiring any second language is a challenge and won’t come easily without hard work and practice, unless you have a real natural flair for international languages.
Unlike the Latin-based languages like French and Italian, German also has quite a distinctive set of sounds and pronunciation that you must master. The need to comprehend new symbols and use of capitalisation is not dissimilar to learning how accents change the sounds of letters in those other languages though.
So, with all of this talk of German as an option, there is one last question to answer, and a very good one at that: what is the point in learning German when so many people in Germany speak English?
Although it is fair to say that English is widely spoken across Germany, here are just some of the benefits that you could be faced with if you choose to study German as a second language.
Many schools, particularly international schools, have strong links with partner schools in a range of countries. As such, students can be rewarded with some excellent cross-border communication that can really enhance their language learning.
For instance, you might be paired up with a peer in Germany and have the opportunity to get to to know them through letters and emails, as you would a pen friend.
Modern technology and multimedia equipment in classes also make communication between international schools much easier, and you may therefore be able to video call a class in another country and participate in a multilingual learning activity. Even adding your language partner on Facebook can open you up to a whole world of new vocabulary.
Class sessions held in groups can reduce nerves as students will see that everyone is in the same boat and that there is no shame in needing a little help to say certain things that you have struggled to grasp in lessons.
The visual presence of your overseas partners may also help you to better retain the information presented, as it can feel more like a face to face conversation as opposed to a telephone call where you cannot read each other’s facial expressions.
Furthermore, in some cases, you may even have the chance to go on a school trip to a country in which your language of study is spoken. Even better, an exchange.
School trips of a few days or more are a great way to practice some of the skills you have learnt in class and through doing homework tasks while also giving you the opportunity to take in cultural sites.
However, there is no better way of improving your language skills than being immersed in the habitants’ way of life.
Student exchange trips often enable students to spend a week or more living in one another’s homes and effectively become a part of their family for the duration of the stay. Families will often show you their home town, take you on excursions to nearby places of interest, take you out to restaurants to eat authentic food from the region and you will usually attend classes at the local school.
All of these things are incredibly influential on language acquisition as they place you in everyday, real-life situations and force you to use the skills you have previously learned.
Studying German can mean the possibility of travelling abroad for a school trip, an exchange, to meet a pen friend or to do work experience in the foreign country. Photo via VisualHunt.com
Being around German speakers all day is a more intense means of learning than say learn German online and can help you to gain a better understanding of German, and quick, i.e. the formally spoken language around the town as well as colloquial parts of speech exchanged by familiar family members.
Studying German is of course a brilliant decision for those wishing to move to a German-speaking city in the future. Germany itself offers very different experiences and cultures depending on which city you go to.
The large cities like Munich, Hamburg and the capital, Berlin, are often quite expensive to live in due to high rent. Saying that, you may not be concerned with finances if you, by then, have a successful, high-paying job!
While Munich is close to the Alps, Berlin and Hamburg benefit from lovely lakes and rivers. Frankfurt is also very popular and is known as quite an animated spot, as well as a financial hub.
Whether you are aiming to move to Germany to pursue a career, or to be close to friends or relatives, a basic knowledge of the local language is key.
As with any foreigner wanting to settle into a new community abroad, you must gain the respect of your neighbours by showing willing to learn about their history, heritage and culture. If you fail to make the effort, you might find yourself closed off from other inhabitants and you may find that fewer people are prepared to help you.
A second language is a good investment because it helps you to truly understand cultural aspects of your chosen city or village. For instance, there are certain foreign words, which can relate to anything native to the country like a food, a recreational activity or even a saying that has survived for generations, that have no literal translation into English.
For example, Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung is a unique German word that is used to describe a sense of struggle to come to terms with events in the past. Language really is fascinating, isn’t it?
Finally, remember that, if you study a language at secondary school, you could be creating the foundations upon which a great friendship later in life could develop.
Just think, if you don’t speak the language of the country in which you are living (even if only as a temporary arrangement), there could be so many missed opportunities to make new friends and acquaintances, all down to the fact that you simply can’t communicate well enough with them to get to know them at that level.
You never know, you might meet your Seelenverwandte (soulmate), or even your doppelgänger (double) around the streets of Germany!
Germany has a reputation for producing high numbers of academically successful candidates, among many other distinctive characteristics. This may be as a result of their very different educational structure, which gives pupils more in the way of study options and thus allows students to follow a path that is most suited to them.
As a result, those who choose to continue with academic study as opposed to following a vocational route are probably far more at ease with the content thrown at them and therefore able to perform better.
Meanwhile, thanks to its worldwide reputation for being a great educator, numerous students flock to German universities to gain high-class degrees and diplomas.
Many international employers highly rank universities across Germany, including The Technical University of Munich, which has produced many employees of BMW and Siemens as well as numerous entrepreneurs.
Heidelberg University, the country’s oldest university, is also known for its strong collaborative programmes between academics and industry. Meanwhile, Humboldt University of Berlin and Frankfurt School of Finance & Management are also held in high regard by various companies.
Despite lessons often being offered in both German and English, a certain level of German is required to get by during the academic courses.
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Studying German, or any second or third language for that matter, can significantly increase your employability rating as candidates with language skills are often high in demand across all sectors.
German, in particular, is an incredibly sought after language thanks to the strong business connections that the UK has with its close European ally, and the fact that it is such a widely spoken language around the world.
The study of German is a sensible choice for anyone who wants to work in engineering, as the Germans are world leaders in this field. However, there are other areas of business which you might not realise are equally thriving in Germany right now.
Firstly, as a direct result of the country’s many refugees whose skills need assessing, there is currently a strong requirement for recruitment and training executives to help businesses to hire suitable candidates to fill roles.
Also, with unemployment levels falling and disposable income going up, the country has seen an influx in purchases of high value items (including furniture and other tangible objects). This is why Consumer Goods is such a strong part of the German economy today.
Finally, the energy market has come out of the other side of its crisis, which began three years ago, and now the sector is thriving. With new policies in place and lots of restructuring having been ordered, major changes have been enforced and energy analysts in the country predict that the energy storage market will peak over the next few years.
So, if you love the idea of living and working in Germany but don’t want a career in automobiles or engineering, don’t be put off! In addition to the three highlighted above, there are many other sectors that would welcome talent from abroad if they had the right skills.
So, now you see why German is such a great skill to have on your CV. You really can do no wrong by choosing to study this language.
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