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Why Study German?


  • German culture has had a major influence on the culture of the United States. More Americans (25%) can trace their ancestry to Germany than to any other country. German is closely related to English and 36 other "Germanic" languages, including Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, and Yiddish. Learning German will give you important insights into the history and structure of English, and it will help you learn any of the other Germanic languages.

  • German speaking countries (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) are among the most popular destinations for American travellers. Knowing some of the basics of the language before you travel will make your stay much more pleasant. Although speakers of German are generally helpful and understanding of language difficulties, not all of them speak English.

  • German is the most widely spoken language in Europe. More Europeans (approximately 93 million) are native speakers of German than of English, French, Italian (58-60 million each) or Spanish (36 million). German is the second most common language on the internet with 13% of all web sites (compared to 5% or fewer in other languages besides English).

  • Germany is our largest European trading partner, with more than 750 American firms doing business there.  The former German chancellor, Willy Brandt, once said:  "If I'm selling to you, I speak your language. If I'm buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen (then you have to speak German)."

  • More than a thousand German companies do business in the U.S., and many have formed strategic partnerships with American firms.  Some examples are Siemens, Daimler Chrysler and Bertelsmann (the world's largest publisher, recently merged with Random House and Sony BMG). There are several German-based companies operating in western PA (for example, Bayer Corporation in Pittsburgh). A recent search of an internet site that posts job openings (monster.com) revealed 233 jobs requiring a knowledge of German. The fields are diverse, including marketing, engineering, computer technology, customer service, translation, international business, intelligence, and law enforcement.

  • German is the language most often recommended or required for academic programs in all fields. For example, no less than 56 programs at the University of California require or recommend German -- far more than any other language. German is particularly valuable for the following fields: chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, psychology, theology, international law, and archeology. Also, since national boundaries are becoming less significant with the prevalence of television and the internet, a knowledge of another language is especially crucial to the field of communications.