2012 has brought new levels of integration and cooperation between Germany and many other countries, and the spread of the German language is both a reason and a result of that greater interconnectedness. Most notably, Germany and China have been coming closer together this year, with a year-long Chinese culture celebration launching in Germany and closer political ties forming between the two countries.
But cultural exchanges are more than just political – over 600 university exchange programs exist between China and Germany and 23,000 Chinese students are studying abroad in Germany, the largest group of foreign students in that country. German is also popular as a second language within China itself. This is no accident – the German government has long made it a policy to encourage the spread of German language learning around the globe. Doing so helps open doors for international trade and cooperation between German businesses and others overseas, especially in emerging markets such as China.
But China isn’t the only country to embrace the German language – Oman has made history this year by introducing German as a foreign language in its schools, making it the first Persian Gulf country to do so. The reasons for the interest in German language in this case have a lot to do with tourism – Germans comprise a large percentage of tourists to the Middle East, and by encouraging students to learn German, Oman is better able to equip itself as an attractive destination for wealthy tourists. Interestingly enough, however, the language is not to be taught by Germans – rather 10 English teachers already in Oman have been trained in German in order to get the program rolling.
In Germany itself, the Punjab Chief Minister recently gave a speech for 45 minutes in German, impressing the hundreds of German industrialists present and helping to build stronger ties between German industry and the rapidly growing Indian economy.
German has even had its own influences on English itself over the years. There are a surprising numbers of German words which have made their way into everyday English conversation, including ‘blitz’ and ‘uber’.