German increasingly popular as a foreign language

Interest in German as a foreign language remains at a very high level. The latest Deutsch als Fremdsprache weltweit (German as a foreign language worldwide) survey puts the number of German language students worldwide at 15.4 million.

The language is becoming particularly popular in South America, notably Brazil, the Middle East and, above all, China and India. In Brazil, 134,000 people are learning German, in China 117,000 and in India 154,000. Numbers in China have doubled since the last Deutsch als Fremdsprache weltweit survey was conducted in 2010.

At 9.4 million, Europe still boasts the majority of German language students, with Poland topping the list with around 2.28 million. While the collapse of the Soviet Union originally prompted a huge increase in the number of German language students in the countries of the region, interest began to decline in 2000 and has only recently picked up again.

“The fall of the Iron Curtain also led to huge growth for English in many countries of central and eastern Europe,” explains Johannes Ebert, secretary-general of the Goethe-Institut, Germany’s international organisation for cultural links. “So today, almost everywhere, German is learnt as the second or third foreign language and only comparatively few schools offer German as the first foreign language.”

German is learnt predominantly at schools, which account for 87%, or 13.4 million, of all students. Germany’s PASCH or Partnerschulinitiative des Auswärtigen Amtes (Foreign Office partner school initiative) plays a key role in this context with its roughly 1,800 partner schools and a total of 600,000 students, acting as a beacon to also attract students to other programmes.

The initiative is run in cooperation with the ZfA or Zentralstelle für das Auslandsschulwesen (Central Agency for German Schools Abroad), the German state-level ministers of education and cultural affairs, the Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD, and the Pädagogischer Austauschdienst, the equivalent of the DAAD at schools level.

In the higher education sector, 1.3 million students are currently learning German (8.8%), and around 600,000 (4.2%) in adult education.

German appears to be an increasingly important language in people’s careers, both at home and among those seeking to come to the country to study, work and live. “Germany is more appealing than ever as a location for business and studies,” notes Ebert.

The Deutsch als Fremdsprache weltweit survey was launched in 1985. It is published every five years by the Foreign Office in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, the DAAD and the ZfA.

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