German Courses at UW Colleges
Beginner courses in German are available at a number of local UW Colleges campuses. Visit our online course catalog to learn more about German classes offered at UW Colleges.
Why Study German?
1. German is the most widely spoken language in Europe.
More people speak German as their native language than any other language in Europe. It's no wonder, since Germany's 83 million inhabitants make it the most populous European nation. But not only the residents of Germany speak German. It is also an official language of Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein. And it is the native language of a significant portion of the population in northern Italy, eastern Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, eastern France, parts of Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Romania, as well as in other parts of Europe.
While learning German can connect you to 120 million native speakers around the globe, remember that many people also learn German as a second language. It is the 3rd most popular foreign language taught worldwide and the second most popular in Europe and Japan, after English.
2. Germany has the 3rd strongest economy and is the #1 export nation in the world.
Germany has the third largest economy in the world and is the economic powerhouse of the European Union. In 2007 -- for the 5th year in a row and despite the strength of the euro currency -- the Germans were world champions in exports. The country exported 940 billion US dollars worth of goods, just ahead of the US exports. From cars to machinery and industrial equipment, from pharmaceuticals to household goods, German businesses earn 1 in 3 euros through export, and 1 in 4 jobs depends on exports. The competitiveness and desirability of German products on the market are indicated by the country's substantial trade surplus, which reached 162 billion euros (209 billion dollars) in 2006 and continues to grow every year.
And don't forget that Switzerland, another German-speaking country, has one of the highest standards of living in the world.
3. Knowing German creates business opportunities.
Germany's economic strength equals business opportunities. Multinational business opportunities exist throughout the European Union and in the Eastern European countries, where German is the second most spoken language after Russian. Companies like BMW, Daimler, Siemens, Lufthansa, SAP, Bosch, Infineon, BASF, and many others need international partners. The Japanese, who have the second most powerful economy in the world, understand the business advantages that a knowledge of German will bring them: 68 percent of Japanese students study German.
If you're looking for employment in the United States, knowing German can give you great advantages. German companies account for 700,000 jobs in the United States, and U.S. companies have created approximately the same number of jobs in Germany. All other things being equal, the job candidate with German skills will trump the one without such skills every time. Most surveyed companies in the United States would choose someone with German literacy over an equally qualified candidate.
4. Germans are innovators.
From Gutenberg's printing press to Hertz' discovery of electromagnetic waves, from Ehrlich's development of chemotherapy to Einstein's theory of relativity, to Brandenburg's creation of the MP3 digital music format, throughout history Germans have proven themselves time and again to be great innovators. That trend continues today. Four of the world's ten most innovative companies are located in Germany, and at 12.7% of the world's patent applications, the country ranks third in the world. Consequently, 200,000 businesses introduce new products on the market each year.
As a nation committed to research and development, Germans are on the frontline of new technologies. Germany exports more high-tech products than any other country except the U.S. and more than 600 firms are active in the cutting-edge field of biotechnology. 115 of these are located in Munich alone. The eastern German city of Dresden has become Europe's microchip center with its more than 765 semiconductor firms.
Given the Germans' commitment to innovation, it is perhaps not surprising that two-thirds of the world's leading international trade fairs take place in Germany. These include CeBIT, the world's largest trade fair for information and communications technology, and the IFA consumer electronics trade fair.
5. Germans are the biggest spenders of tourist dollars in the world.
While German workers are highly productive, it is clear that they know how to play just as hard as they work. With ample disposable income and an average of six weeks of vacation a year, Germans have the time and the means to travel ... and they do! If you are a world traveler, you are certain to encounter Germans wherever you go, since nearly three out of every four vacations by Germans are spent in other countries. In 2007 they spent a record 91 billion euros on international travel. Year after year, the residents of Germany spend more on foreign travel than those of any other nation.
Germans especially favor travel to warm Mediterranean climates, such as can be found in Spain, Italy, Turkey, and Greece, and travel to Eastern European countries is increasing in popularity. Germans also readily travel to Africa, the Far East, and the Americas. 1.2 million German tourists visited the U.S. in 2003, making Germans the third largest nationality of tourists to the United States (after the British and Japanese). The most popular U.S. destinations are California, Florida, and New York. Travel agencies, tour companies, hotels, airlines, and car rental agencies that can communicate with Germans in their own language will win their business. Floridians know this: in that state there are at least two travel magazines published in German: Florida Journal and Florida Sun Magazin.
6. The German presence on the Internet supersedes most others.
Considering what great innovators the Germans are, it's not at all surprising that they maintain a dominant Internet presence. With 8 million Internet domains, Germany's top-level country domain .de is second only to the extension .com. That makes German domain names even more popular than those with .net, .org, .info, and .biz extensions. Even the second-place country extension .uk trails far behind at 3.7 million domain names.
7. Germans form the largest single heritage group in the United States.
If you're American or are interested in American culture, learning German can expand your appreciation and knowledge of United States history and culture. In the year 2000 census, 42.8 million or 15.2 percent of Americans reported having German ancestry, making German-Americans the largest single heritage group in the U.S.
In waves of immigration that span nearly four centuries, Germans have brought with them many customs and traditions that have become so ingrained in American ways that their origin is often forgotten. Family names and names of thousands of towns and cities indicate the German heritage of their ancestors or founders. Such cultural mainstays as kindergarten, the Christmas tree, and hot dogs and hamburgers were introduced by German immigrants to America. They founded multiple breweries, created Levi's jeans, invented ketchup, and created Hershey's chocolate. Germans had such a fundamental presence at the time of the founding of the United States that a German language version of the Declaration of Independence was printed only a few days after it was adopted.
8. One in ten books in the world is published in German
German is not only a language of the past. As prolific researchers and scholars, German speakers produce nearly 80,000 new book titles each year. The only language markets that produce more books annually are the Chinese and English publishing industries. In number of books published, Munich is second in the world only to New York. Since only a small percentage of German books are translated into other languages (for instance, approximately ten percent into Korean and Chinese, just over five percent into English), only a knowledge of German will give you access to a vast majority of these titles.
9. German-speaking countries have a rich cultural heritage.
Apart from their many contributions to American culture, the German speakers have a rich cultural heritage in their own right. Germany is often referred to as the land of Dichter und Denker -- of poets and thinkers. And rightly so, because German contributions to the arts and human thought have been nothing short of profound.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, and Hermann Hesse are just a few authors whose names and works are well-known internationally. Ten Nobel prizes for literature have been awarded to German, Austrian, and Swiss German authors. The world of classical music is inseparable from the names of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Strauss, and Wagner to name only a few renowned German-speaking composers. Vienna remains an international center of music today. From the magnificent architecture of medieval buildings to the Bauhaus movement, from Dürer's woodcuts to the expressionist masterpieces of Nolde, Kirchner, and Kokoschka, Germans have made substantial contributions to world art and architecture.
Philosophy and the sciences would also be unthinkable without the contributions of German speakers. The philosophies of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and numerous others have had lasting influences on modern society. The psychologists Freud and Jung forever changed the way we think about human behavior. Scientists from the three major German-speaking countries have won dozens of Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, and medicine.
Knowing German allows you to access the works of these people in their original language and to fully understand the culture whence they derived. Anyone interested in these fields automatically expands her knowledge and skill by knowing German.
10. German is not as hard as you think.
If English is your native language, or if you already know English, then you already have an advantage when it comes to learning German. Because modern German and modern English both evolved from the common ancestor language Germanic, the two languages share many similarities in both vocabulary and grammar. If you understand any of this ...
Meine Schwester hat braunes Haar. Sie ist intelligent. Sie studiert Medizin in Berlin. Sie kann gut singen.
... then you already know some German!
In addition, German is spelled phonetically. Once you learn the system of sounds, it is easy to predict how the spoken word is written and how the written word is pronounced.
11. German is required or recommended by many undergraduate and graduate programs.
German speakers' strong contributions in a broad array of fields makes the language an important asset in many disciplines. At the University of California, for instance, more majors recommend a knowledge of German as an important supplement than any other language (German: 56 majors, French: 43 majors, Spanish: 21 majors, Japanese: 7 majors). These majors include a wide range of subjects -- from biology, physics, and chemistry to linguistics, religious studies, and art history.
Considering the importance of the German language in the fields of publishing and research, it's not surprising that many graduate schools want their graduates to have at least a reading knowledge of German. Knowing German gives graduates access to important research published in German books and professional journals.
12. Germany financially sponsors over 60,000 international exchanges each year.
While promoting innovation and supporting research within Germany, the Germans also recognize that international cooperation and experience is essential to its continued success as a world leader. In the year 2001 alone, the German Academic Exchange Service supported 67,000 scholars, scientists, educators, and students in periods of international research and study. 43 percent of these were foreigners who were awarded financial assistance to participate in an exchange in Germany. In addition, like German students, foreign students directly enrolled in German universities pay no tuition fees.
(Source: Vistawide World Languages & Cultures)
Top 10 Essential German Websites
- The Goethe Institut: The cultural outreach of the Federal Republic of Germany, operating worldwide and offering German language courses and teacher training
- The American Association of Teachers of German: National organization dedicated to the advancement and improvement of the language, literature, and culture of the German-speaking countries
- The German Studies Association: A multi- and interdisciplinary association of scholars in German, Austrian, and Swiss history, literature, culture studies, political science, and economics
- The Society for German-American Studies: International scholarly organization for those interested in the contributions of the German element to American life and culture over the centuries
- Die Deutsche Bundesbahn: German federal railway website, useful for planning rail transport during vacation trips
- Der Spiegel: Homepage for Germany's leading weekly news magazine
- Radio-Locator: Directory of radio stations with an online and streaming audio presence, available by individual countries
- ARD (German Television Channel 1): Website for the leading broadcast television channel in Germany, with lots of streaming video content and links to other broadcast sites
- Shea's German Work Page: Web page with lots of links to German cultural items and web-based grammar + vocabulary practice exercises for students
- Amazon.de: German homepage of Amazon, ideal for finding and acquiring books, music, and other current resources from the German-speaking countries