There’s a lot more to Germany than beer and sausages! If you’re interested in learning German or working in Germany in the future, here are five useful facts I’ve picked up from the Skills Centre’s Advanced German course.
German is one of eight languages that students can learn through the Skills Centre. Dr Uwe Baumann runs the German courses at various levels, from Beginners to Advanced.
Why learn German?
There might be lots of reasons why you want to learn or improve your German. Germany is the largest economy in Europe and one of the most competitive in the world, so maybe you’d like to go on a placement or work there in the future?
On the Advanced course, we explore a different topic each week and learn from Uwe’s wide-ranging knowledge of German culture and society.
Here are some random facts I’ve learnt from the course to give you a little insight into the country and the language.
1. German is spoken all over the world
German is an official language in six countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Belgium) and there are over 7.5 million people in no less than 42 countries who belong to a German-speaking minority, including France, Netherlands, Italy, and Spain.
There are also large German-speaking communities in Russia, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Namibia (a former German colony), USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. In total, around 130 million people speak German as their first language or second language across the world. So you might use your German skills in some unexpected places!
2. Colourful coalitions are the norm
Coalition governments made up of several political parties are the norm in the German parliament, the Bundestag. Coalitions have different nicknames, based on the traditional colours of each party.
For example, a ‘Jamaika-Bündnis’ (Jamaica coalition), which has governed since 2017 in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, is formed of the conservative Christian Democratic CDU/CSU party (black), Die Grünen green party and the liberal FDP party (yellow) – all the colours of the Jamaican flag.
Olaf Scholz, the newly-elected German Chancellor, will lead an ‘Ampel-Koalition’, or traffic light coalition, made up of his centre-left SPD (red), the FDP (yellow) and Die Grünen (green) parties – the colours of a traffic light.
3. We influence each others’ languages
You may already be familiar with the German words Schadenfreude, Zeitgeist, Wanderlust, and Doppelgänger which we’ve borrowed because an English equivalent doesn’t exist?
A huge number of English words are also used in everyday German. ‘Der Lockdown’ and ‘das Homeschooling’ are two recent examples from the pandemic, and technology vocabulary is full of anglicisms (der Laptop, der Browser, das Blog, die E-Mail, die Social Media…)
Watch out for false friends though. ‘Das Handy’ in German is a ‘mobile phone’ in English, ‘der Smoking’ in German is actually a ‘dinner jacket’ in English and, most paradoxically of all, ‘das Gift’ in German is ‘poison’ in English (lots more examples here).
4. Germans are very social!
Clubs and societies, or ‘Vereine’, are an important part of German society. There are around 50 million members of 620,000 registered societies for every conceivable activity and hobby. Every third German is a member of a sports society.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest society in Germany is the ADAC – the Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club eV (German Association of Car Owners) with 20 million members. Some weirder societies include the Linkshänder-Verein (Left Handers Society), Belle Moustache eV (Club for Beautiful Facial Hair), and how about joining the Furz-dich-frei Verein (Club for Free Farters)?!
5. Willkommen in Deutschland
The current population of Germany is 83.2 million. Roughly 26%, over 21 million people, are from a migrant background, making it, after the US, the country with the second highest number of migrants in the world (and the figure is expected to rise to 35% by 2040).
The biggest migrant group (13%) originates from Turkey, dating back to the Turkish 'Gastarbeiter' (guest workers) who arrived in the 1960s.
In 2015 Germany took in an unprecedented one million refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, over half of whom have since found work.
Whilst the integration of migrants into German society is not without its challenges, their contribution to the German labour market is much needed, given the country’s ageing population and one of the lowest birth rates in the world.
If you’re interested in learning more about German and Germany, or one of the other languages taught in the Skills Centre, why not sign up for class? Short intensive courses are also available.