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Why learn German when "everyone speaks English anyway"?

Why learn German when "everyone speaks English anyway"? Is a question I'm sure all linguists have been asked and eye-rolled in response to. This usually stems from the ignorance of not knowing the power and influence Germany has on the rest of the world in terms of economics and trade. It is also an attitude that is unfortunately deep-rooted in our British culture, resulting in us being far behind the rest of Europe in our ability to speak foreign languages.

First of all, not everyone speaks English so let's quash that theory early and get it out of the way. Yes if you go into the city centre of Berlin you will be able to speak English wherever you go and they will most likely understand you, however, Germany exists outside these large metropolitan cities and so does business, education and tourism - all industries which rely on speaking the German language.

In January 2020, seven UK universities announced they were dropping language degrees from their curriculum. This is due to a significant decrease in the uptake of the courses. In July 2020, the University of Dundee removed German from their curriculum. This means that in four years' time the German department within the University of Dundee School of Humanities will have disappeared. This comes at a time when the UK is already experiencing extreme hardships due to Brexit, coronavirus pandemic and the knock-on economic effect. That is why it is important to realise the strength and power Germany has in economics and why it is a language that should be encouraged.

According to the latest edition of the British Council's Language Trends survey report, German has the lowest uptake in England's secondary schools and it has decreased significantly each year, this trend is similar throughout the rest of the UK. Teaching German to school-age children is something that needs to be encouraged and supported in order to increase the uptake of the language in university-level courses and to help support the UK through this post-Brexit era. The skills that you acquire from learning a language offer you the flexibility to broaden your career prospects, they open up 6 new countries to you, they allow you to increase your business' target market.

Languages are even more important now in post-Brexit Britain. In the UK, only 32% of 15 to 30-year-olds can read and write in a foreign language - compared to the rest of the EU's 89% average. We are already starting to see the damaging effects this is having on business and trade involving the UK. This is highlighted in the research led by the British Chambers of Commerce which showed a staggering 96% of exporters had no foreign-language ability for the markets they served. According to the British Council, the UK has an urgent strategic need for language skills if it wants to succeed as a world leader in trade and international relations.

  1. Germany is the world leader in export.

  2. Germany has the strongest economy in Europe and the 3rd strongest worldwide.

  3. The UK's tourism and hospitality industry heavily rely on German tourists.

  4. The German language is the second most commonly used scientific language.

  5. Learning German provides you with increased cultural understanding.

  6. International business - it is important to know the language of your business partners.

  7. Most sought after language by employers.

The Change Recruitment Group recently summarised the above points in an article: "Germany is Europe’s largest economy and the UK’s most important trading partner. It’s also one of the largest political powerhouses in the EU. As such, UK companies will need to recruit German speakers to compete on the global and European stage post-Brexit, making graduates with German-language skills, at least according to the University of Birmingham, extremely attractive to major UK companies."

Now that you understand the importance, you can help make a change. Start by signing this petition (click here) to reverse the decision to remove German from the curriculum at the University of Dundee and share this article to spread the word.

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