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Attractive Language

German is the most widely spoken native language in the EU. Interest in learning German is rising rapidly in many countries.
Deutschlernende vergrößern durch gute Sprachkenntnisse ihre Chancen auf dem internationalen Arbeitsmarkt.
© dpa

Germany is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union European Union In 1957, Germany was one of the six founding members of today’s EU, along with France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The EU is currently made up of 27 states; the euro is the official currency in 20 of them. For Germany, European integration forms the basis for peace, security and… Read more › and ranks 11th in the world’s most widely spoken languages. Just under 130 million people across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Liechtenstein and South Tyrol in Italy speak German as their first language or regularly use it as a second language.  Along with English, Dutch and Swedish, German is one of the 15 or so Germanic languages, a branch of the Indo-Germanic family of languages.

Popular second language around the world

Germany’s strong economy and the demand for skilled workers make learning German a very attractive option. A 2020 study into German language learning around the world claims there are just under 15.5 million 
people currently learning German as a foreign language. It remains the case that the majority of these learners are in Europe, but German is making particularly strong gains in Africa and Asia. The number of people learning German in Africa has risen by almost 50% since 2015. One reason behind this is that language qualifications are becoming increasingly important for skilled workers. This trend has been boosted by new legislation passed in 2020 which makes it easier for qualified workers from non-EU countries to migrate to Germany. 
Germany supports language schools at home and abroad. It also offers scholarships and provides opportunities for internationally mobile students to study in higher education. The Federal Foreign Office is working to train more teachers through targeted programs with intermediary organizations, such as “Dhoch3” run by the German Academic Exchange Service ( DAAD DAAD The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is an organization run jointly by the German institutes of higher education. Its purpose is to promote relations between higher education institutes in Germany and abroad, especially through exchange schemes between students and academics. As a rule its… Read more › ) or “Deutsch Lehren Lernen” run by the Goethe-Institut. 

There are around 140 German schools abroad, which play a major role in teaching German. They provide enhanced German teaching to around 2,000 pupils as part of the Federal Foreign Office’s PASCH scheme (Schools: Partners for the Future). In 2020, some 309,000 people took part in language courses provided by the Goethe-Institut, which provides German language courses and tests in almost 100 countries. This was an increase of around 73,000 compared to 5 years previously. 

The demand for digital language learning has also increased, boosted recently by the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, the Goethe-Institut’s online learning platform recorded around 1.2 million hits in May 2020. There had been only 326,000 in the same month the previous year. In the same period, usage of online courses provided by Deutsche Welle doubled to 
4.2 million hits.

German in academia

There has been a gradual decline in the importance of German as the international language of science. Researchers who do not speak German only rarely publish in German. By contrast, German-speaking aca­demics actively publish in English, particularly in the natural sciences. German has a long and significant heritage as an academic language in the humanities and social sciences.