Learning any foreign language is an easy way to expand your frame of knowledge, build confidence and even get to know your own a little better.
German is no different, and taking a course in German can provide so many benefits to students, from study and career opportunities to becoming part of a second global community.
If they practice enough, people can enjoy a whole new world of literature, music, art and conversation. Let's have a look at all the wonderful things German lessons can offer to students:
The many benefits of learning German
Connect with native speakers across Europe
In Australia, German lessons are rarely offered in school, with many students seeing others like French, Italian and even Japanese as more interesting or easy.
German is seen by many people as a brusque language spoken by a small percentage of people. When we look a little closer, we can start to see that this is not quite the case.
German is actually the native language that is most widely spoken across the European Union, according to the European Commission. 16% of Europeans speak German as their mother tongue, followed by Italian and English (13% each). We often tend to forget that German is the official language in many countries, like Austria, Lichtenstein and Switzerland.
Whether your speaking level is just basic phrases from an online app or advanced from years of classes, you can start to connect with people who speak German across the continent, allowing you to meet new people to practice with and possibly make life long friends.
Learn the language to get ready for study in Germany
For Australian students, going to study in Europe, whether during high school or university, can be a daunting but exciting opportunity.
It can be a way to gain some independence, meet new people and also looks great on a CV!
Knowing a second language, especially one spoken in as many countries as German, is an important skill and will easily make your application stand out that little bit more.
So why study abroad in Germany? Well, the German education system is very highly rated across the world, and according to PISA testing, German school children are among some of the highest achievers on the continent.
This education excellence extends through to the universities, like LMU Munich and the Universitätsmedizin Berlin which are counted as some of the best universities in the world, according to Times Higher Education.
For students who are interested in the German university experience, organisations like the Goethe-Institut Australia are one of the best options for help and information. It's also important to understand the different types of higher education on offer.
Here's a quick breakdown of the three most popular higher education institutions in Germany:
- Universities: Like anywhere else in the world, German university courses mostly focus on theoretical knowledge, over a vast range of subjects. They teach students to think critically, write eloquently and research appropriately. Some technical universities in the country focus on a specific subject area, like die Technische Universität München, which focuses on research in a small range of fields like Environment & Climate and Information & Communications.
- Universities of Applied Sciences: This style of university learning takes a much more practice-oriented approach than regular universities. Here, the focus is on preparing students for professional life in their chosen field and a large part of the course is a practical phase or internship. Common topics of study for this type of institution include economics and medicine.
- Colleges of art, film and music: While art and music may not be the very first thing you think of when you think of the country, this could not be farther from the truth. As we will see later, there is a wonderful variety of both classical and modern German art in a variety of topics. From architecture to fashion design, these colleges offer cutting edge training courses that foster and cultivate talent.
To apply for many of the exchange programs offered by these institutions, or organisations like the German Academic Exchange Service, an advanced level is often a requirement. They may even ask for an official certificate like the DSH or TestDaf.
Reaching this high level of comprehension and communication may seem overwhelming or impossible at first, but by getting started as early as possible with a German course in Melbourne, students can kickstart their learning and get closer and closer to this goal with every class.
For people that are planning to study or live in a German-speaking country, it's also important to understand and speak the language well enough to truly engage and enjoy your experience. You will also notice how much your fluency improves, just by living day in day out in the language, and making friends with native speakers.
Open up a range of career opportunities in Germany and Europe
Knowing a second or third language is a highly sought after skill in any job market. Not only does it allow you to communicate with more possible clients or employers, but it also demonstrates consistency and work ethic.
Germany has a very attractive job market, with the unemployment rate at the beginning of 2020 sitting at just 3.4%, about half of the average rate in the rest of Europe.
It's also an excellent place for Australians to set themselves up, as federal programs like the Australia-Germany Research Network are serving to deepen the connections between our the two countries.
There are even programs supporting Australian artists in the country. Around 15,000 Australians live and work in Germany, attracted by the steady job market and the central position in Europe.
There are also great links between Australia and other German-speaking countries like Austria, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
Having a high level of spoken and written German, as well as being an advanced English speaker, can greatly improve your chances of finding work in one of these countries.
Whether your dream is to be an artist or an economist, you're sure to discover a world of excellent opportunities.
Speaking German fluently can also be an advantage in the international market as well. In many countries across the globe, German is a minority language.
A great example is the US, where more than 17% of Americans identify as ethnically German, making it one of the largest minority groups in the country. This trend is similar in places like Brazil, Tanzania, Chile and Venezuela.
Germans also love to travel and see the world, and taking vacation time is an important part of the culture of the country. In fact, Germans are some of the world's most abundant tourists. In 2017 alone, Germans made around 92 million trips abroad.
In Europe, destinations like Spain, Italy and Croatia are the most popular destinations, but destinations in places like South America and South East Asia are becoming more and more popular
So what does this mean for German language students? Well, it means that if you want to work in the tourism industry almost anywhere in the world, knowing German can be a great advantage when looking for work. So whether you're in the tourism business, or you just love to travel, speaking German can help you out in a range of circumstances.
So if this sounds appealing to you, jumpstart your German study with a one-on-one course, either at home or online.
A whole new culture at your fingertips
Of course, when we learn a language, we don't just get to know how to conjugate verbs, what a case is or how to say words like die, mit and der.
We suddenly get access to a whole new world of art, film, music, food and so much more, both traditional and modern.
We might think of it as a land of sausage and beer, but truly, it's a country of great cultural wealth and knowing the language will help students to explore and enjoy it more deeply.
A history of the German language
As it's known today, German has its origins in a group of separate dialects that were used in and around Northern Europe. These dialects have evolved into a range of modern languages found in Europe, like Danish.
Even English owes some of its vocabulary and grammatical structures to these, and all together, they are a part of a family called Germanic.
The first recorded history of Germanic languages is when the original speakers made contact with the Romans, and by the 6th century, this had evolved into 'Old High German' which is the root of the language spoken today.
This language, originally spoken in Northern Germany, was standardised over hundreds of years, but mostly in written form.
From the late 19th century onwards, this dialect slowly started spreading even as a spoken language, until other frequently spoken dialects eventually gave way to this standard version of High German, which is now spoken in most parts of the country.
Of course, that doesn't mean that every German speaker speaks exactly the same language. There are different varieties of standard German in countries like Switzerland and Austria, and even some parts of Northern Italy. Then, there are some dialects, which can be very different from the standard. Low Saxon, Low Franconian and Bavarian are just some of the different dialects in the country.
One amazing fact about the German dialects is that there is one that's spoken exclusively in the U.S! Around 150,000 to 350,00 Americans speak Pennsylvania German, mostly in Amish communities. This language is a version of Franconian, which also has some standard German and even English elements!
As you can see, German features an amazing history that is full of surprises and amazing facts, which you can explore in detail during your lessons in German, through in person lessons or online.
Some basic grammar features
In some ways, German grammar structures and even vocabulary are similar to those of English. This is mostly because they share Germanic origins and root words. There are even similarities in the way we form verbs. Here are some examples of words or verbs that look or sound similar:
- and – und
- the – die
- mit – with
- drink, drank, drunken - trinke, trank, getrunken
However, there are many ways German grammar also differs from English. For example, in English nouns aren't gendered like in many Romance languages.
In German, there are three genders; masculine, feminine and neuter. The gender of a noun changes the way we use pronouns, articles, adjectives and more with it.
Learning German also means you need to learn about case. In grammar terms, a case is a category for a word, depending on how it's used in a sentence.
German has four cases; nominative (the thing that does an action), genitive (the thing that owns something else) dative (the indirect receiver of an object or action) and accusative (the direct receiver of an object or action).
This is just one of a range of grammar structures that you'll need to reach an advanced level, and the help of a course with a private tutor can make it much easier to do.
Don't be overwhelmed, you can do it!
Seeing all of these grammar terms may have some prospective students running for the hills, but in reality, it's possible to master German with a lot of hard work and constant effort. Lesson by lesson, these terms will seem less scary and have more meaning for students. Eventually, you won't need to think about it at all and it'll be easy!
One great advantage of German is that the construction of sentences is quite logical, which can be appealing to students.
A good example of this is the compound noun Wasserflasche which translates to 'water bottle'. Just like in English, this noun is made up of putting two objects together to make a new one. German uses a lot of compound nouns, so this can make life a little easier.
Also, around 25% of English vocabulary comes from Germanic, meaning learners will probably be able to more or less recognise at least a quarter of new words during their lessons. It also helps that you don't have to worry about learning a whole new alphabet, like you would if you were learning Chinese or Russian.
Finally, German is a phonetic language, which means you pronounce words exactly as you see them on the page.
Once you have learned the links between different letters and sounds, you'll be able to pronounce any word, even if it's 36 letters long, like Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung, the longest word in the language.
So if you're interested in the language, don't be scared. With the right teacher and the right attitude, students can become fluent in no time!
Of course, when we talk about culture, we're not just talking about the history or features of a language, but everything that has been produced in that language over hundreds of years.
Every year, millions of tourists flock to Germany, not just for Oktoberfest, but to see some of the amazing sights the country has to offer.
There are more than 60 UNESCO World Heritage Sites between Germany, Switzerland and Austria, just waiting to be visited. There are places like Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, an amazing 18th-century castle which is known as the Versailles of Berlin and features some of the most stunning gardens in the world.
If you're interested in history and archaeology, you could visit the Swabian Jura, where you can find caves that were used for shelter during the Ice Age, and where art from that period have been discovered.
Then there's all of the amazing literature that you'll be free to read in its original form.
You could read works from renowned authors, like Goethe, whose work Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther) will leave you feeling sad and in love all at the same time.
Another option is Kafka’s Der Process (The Trial), a story about a man who is accused of committing murder in a world that's very different from our own.
Enjoying a film in its original language is a great pleasure, and you can find anything in German cinema, whether you're into drama, romance or comedy (trust me, it does exist).
Fatih Akin's Soul Kitchen will have you in stitches. The cult favourite Good Bye, Lenin! Wolfgang Becker will have you laughing and crying in equal measure, with its story about a family that recreates East Germany after the Berlin wall falls whilst their mother is in a coma.
Finally, some music! Even though many people have a stereotype of German music being ugly or aggressive, this is really not the case. And it's not all Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) or Beethoven’s 9 symphonies!
There is also a strong music scene that spans genres. The free, Berlin-based online platform COLORSXSTUDIOS features the best up and coming music from around the world, while rising stars like Alice Phoebe Lou and Edo Saiya are putting (or at least keeping) the country on the map from rap to indie to emo.
Of course, this is a quick overview, but there's so much more in the German cultural landscape that German students can engage with and use to stay enthusiastic and excited about their studies!
Each lesson can get you closer to your goal of speaking German with fluency and ease.