As Europe’s most populous country and 4th global economic power, Germany is a power destination for those wanting to live abroad. Whether you want to live, study, or do an internship in Germany, you should definitely learn German.
However, traditional German studies at school tend to be ineffective. Parents and students are now deciding to adopt a different approach and focus on German culture and learning more about German speaking countries.
German personalities and celebrities, especially poets and writers, act as ambassadors for the language and the culture and are a great way for students to learn more about German and integrate themselves into German culture.
Here’s our list of the most influential German personalities for anyone who wants to learn more about the History of the German language...
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Often considered as the most intelligent scholar who’s ever lived, Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist famous for developing his theory of relativity. The German scientist was born in 1879 and received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.
In 1915, Einstein published his paper on the Theory of Relativity and his famous e = mc² formula explaining the relationship between mass and energy.
Albert Einstein’s extraordinary intelligent was put to use helping Franklin Roosevelt during the Second World War. Worried that Germany would develop a nuclear weapon, Einstein encouraged the United States to develop their nuclear research resulting in the “Manhattan Project”.
Albert Einstein created a positive stereotype of the German people that still exists today.
Born in 1483, Martin Luther was a theologian and university professor. As the father of Protestantism, he revolutionised the religious morals of the 15th century through his theological reform.
More than just a theologian, Martin Luther was also an exceptional translator. His translation of the bible into German was culturally influential and served as a linguistic model for future German translators.
Lutheranism even spread to other European countries like Finland, Estonia, Iceland, and Norway. Lutheran churches were built all over the world, notably in Paris.
In Germany, it’s possible to study a curriculum of Lutheran theology.
Born in 1970 in Rheinberg, Claudia Schiffer was the most popular supermodel of the 1990s. At 1.8m, she worked as a model for ready-made clothes brands like Chanel, Yves Saint Lauren, and Ralph Lauren.
Discovered in a nightclub aged 17, she became one of the world’s first supermodels. Claudia Schiffer’s popularity is notably due to her resemblance to Brigitte Bardot, a beauty icon in the 1950s. Claudia Schiffer was also the first model to have a wax model made in Paris’ Musée Grévin.
Nowadays, Claudia Schiffer is an ambassador for both Unicef and the German language.
Anne Frank is one of the Second World War’s most recognisable names. At only 15, she was killed during the Holocaust. Anne Frank is famous for her unusual literary talent. While her father hid her from the authorities, Anne Frank started writing her personal diary in order to explain the social upheaval during World War II.
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When Anne Frank died, Otto Frank decided to publish her diary in order to honour her memory. Anne Frank’s diary is known today as one of the most widely read books in the world and the young German remains a symbol of liberty and bravery in the Germanic world.
If you're interested in German literature, you should also check out our list of the best German writers!
“By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man.” - Immanuel Kant
Born in 1724, Immanuel Kant is one of the most studied philosophers in the world. As the creator of transcendental idealism, Kant inspired some of the greatest Germanic thinkers and artists including Goethe, Hegel, and Schopenhauer.
Immanuel Kant’s philosophy also inspired the creation of the UN, the principle of secularism, and the human rights charter.
In his famous Critique of Pure Reason essay, Kant explained that man must determine his possibilities of knowledge and encourage morality and hope. As part of the Age of Enlightenment, Kant became known for his criticism of the obscurantism of the time and encourage the perfectibility of man.
Kant’s essays are today studied in German schools and around the world.
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Born 17 December 1770, Ludwig Van Beethoven is one of the best known classical composers of all time. Representing the Austrian First Viennese School, it was considered a classical music virtuoso from a very young age.
At the time, he was considered so talented that many 19th century composers were far too scared to produce works over fear of being compared to him.
Beethoven is also widely known due to his condition. In fact, he went deaf in 1801 aged 31 but continued to produce music.
Some of his most famous works include:
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 9
Piano Sonata No. 8
Ode to Joy
Beethoven expressed his revolutionary thoughts through his music. The composer was known for his strong personality and his rejection of the tyranny of the monarchy. Beethoven supported the French revolution as well as a number of other independence movements.
Beethoven inspired other German artists including Goethe. The famous German author and poet even asked him to compose music for Egmont, one of his plays.
From one controversial character to another...
Born in Leimen in 1967, Boris Becker is a German tennis player.
The Mick Jagger of tennis! An ambassador for the Germans.
Becker is one of the most famous players in the world. With 19 victories, he shares the record for most victories against No. 1 players in the world with Rafael Nadal. Boris Becker also won six Grand Slam tournaments and over $25m in prize money.
Boris Becker also had a direct impact on tennis in Germany. Thanks to his impressive victories, many young Germans became interested in the sport. He was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2003.
Born in Hamburg in 1933, Karl Lagerfeld is a German fashion designer. He has appeared several times in Time Magazine as one of the most influential men of the 20th and 21st centuries.
As a business man, Karl Lagerfeld has been involved in a large number of different fields:
Fashion: Chloé, H&M, Pierre Balmain, Fendi, Chanel, Christian Dior.
Cosmetics: Unilever, Coty, Interparfums
Photography: Gerhard Steidl, 3 Suisses, Le Figaro.
Cinema: The Valet, Totally Spies
Property: Eddie Trump Group, Isla Moda
At just 6 years old, Karl Lagerfeld had already mastered English, German, and French. He’s an ambassador for the German language and “Karlisms” in which he mixes together several foreign languages.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
If there’s one author you need to know to pass a German citizenship test, it’ll be Goethe!
Born in 1749, Goethe is one of German literature’s most famous writers. Both a novelist and a statesman, Goethe influenced several European writers and thinkers.
Some of his most famous works include:
Faust, Part One
Faust, Part Two
The Sorrows of Young Werther
Theory of Colours
Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship
Italian Journey, etc.
Goethe is as important for the German language as Shakespeare is for the English language.
While both hugely famous and popular, his works were also often controversial as they included themes that were rejected by the bourgeoisie of the 18th century. Nevertheless, Goethe’s novels like The Sorrows of Young Werther are classics of German literature.
“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
If you really want to understand the German language, you need to study Goethe!
Does the name Horst Tappert ring a bell? His face might be more familiar. He played Derrick in the German TV series!
In Germany, Horst Tappert is one of German cinema’s most famous actors. In addition to his role as a detective, Tappert appeared in around 50 different films throughout his career.
The German crime series took the German language worldwide and was bought in 100 different countries. After 25 years on TV, Horst Tappert last appeared as the detective in 1998.
A German television institution, even Pope John Paul II was a fan of Horst Tappert and the actor was even given the title of honorary police commissioner in Munich. Tappert is one of Germany’s most famous cultural exports!
Karl May is one of the most famous German writers in the world. In addition to poetry, autobiographies, music, he is also known for his adventure novels.
Some of his most famous works include:
The Treasure of Silver Lake
The Oil Prince
In the Desert
Despite his international success, Karl May isn’t widely known in the UK. This means it’s very difficult to get into his books without speaking German. Karl May’s works were inspired by German and English Westerns and are great for anyone wanting to learn German.