“Everyone speaks English in Germany, so why should I bother to learn German?”
I’ve heard that hairy chestnut floating around—and I bet you have too. Sorry to break the bubble, folks, but that’s just scuttlebutt.
In fact, according to World Atlas, only around 56% of the people living in Germany speak English to some degree. And, let’s face it, some of them are English, so the percentage of Germans who speak English is probably less.
Foreign language classes are compulsory in German schools—and English is a popular choice— but even so, if you’re going to work or travel in Germany, you’ll find it much easier and more enjoyable if you speak at least a little of the language.
In fact, right this minute, I can think of eleven reasons why you should crack on with some German lessons now.
By the way, if you prefer watching videos to reading, hit play on the video below. Otherwise, keep scrolling to read the post and find out: why learn German?
#1 Have Fun With Accents
Speaking German does take practice, but there’s heaps of potential to liven things up with a few regional dialects.
Most people know Standarddeutsch (standard German), and it’s commonly used in writing, too. But it’s not the only form of German in the world—or even the country.
The Goethe Institute looked into this and found that around 50% of Germans speak standard German AND at least one German dialect.
In Bavaria, they speak Bavarian (except in Upper Franconia, where Fränkisch reigns supreme.) In Hesse, you’ll hear people speaking Hessian. If you’re travelling in the west, you may encounter some Low German or Low Saxon variations.
Of course, there are other German-speaking countries, too. Five countries in Europe list German as one of their official languages—six if you count Luxembourg, where it’s called an administrative language.
Travel in Switzerland, and you’ll find people using Swiss German, which brings quite a few new grammar rules and slang words into play.
In Austria, you guessed it, the language is Austrian German, and you’ll probably encounter Low German in Belgium and the Netherlands.
All in all, you should probably learn standard German first, but if you want to change things up, go make some friends in a different part of Germany!
#2 Stack German Words Like Lego Bricks
Hands up, everyone who loves building with Lego.
German is choc-a-block full of long words pushed together like Lego bricks. And when you translate these words into English, you get some hilarious results.
Can you guess what these German compound words mean? (*Answers below—no peeking!)
- Handschuhen (hand shoes – literally)
- Flugzeug (fly thing)
- Schnabeltier (beak animal)
- Spielzeug (plaything)
- Nacktschnecken (naked snail)
- Gluhbirne (glowing pear)
We’ve adopted a fair few Lego-like German words into English too. Think kindergarten, which literally means child garden, and the aptly named poltergeist, which translates into rumbling ghost.
Look Out For The L-o-n-g Words
English has developed its fair share of compound words, I agree. But German must be in the running for the “world championships in lego-word-building” with some of these beauties which cram whole sentences in one word.
How about Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften, which are “insurance companies providing legal protection.” That word is in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest commonly used German word.
Some words are even longer. Take Rinderkennzeichnungsfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz with an impressive 79 letters.
Don’t worry, since it translates to Delegation Transfer Law for Cattle Labelling and Beef Labelling Supervision Duties, you won’t have to use that word in everyday conversation!
The cool thing is that if you reverse-engineer the long words, you get lots of small words, so you understand them, and it’s fun.
You can probably even invent some yourself and get away with it!
Let’s try this one. Frühjahrsmüdigkeit. Frühjahrs is “spring”, and müdigkeit is “fatigue”, so this word is spring fatigue—a real thing in Germany.
Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever suffered from spring fatigue, but I’ve definitely had frühjahrsputzmüdigkeit (spring-cleaning fatigue). I built that word myself!
* Quiz Answers:
Did you guess these? Gloves, aeroplane, platypus, toy, slug, and lightbulb.
#3 Intriguing German Grammar
You can’t avoid learning German grammar, so you might as well look out for the interesting bits along the way.
Here’s one. Have you noticed that Germans capitalise ALL their nouns?
A Letter Like No Other
Here’s another fascinating tidbit.
German has one completely unique letter. That’s right—no other language uses the letter ß or “es-zett”.
Now, the ß comes after a long vowel or a diphthong, and you’ll find it in words like Straße (street) Maß (measure) and groß (large).
But don’t worry if you’re typing German and don’t have an es-zett on your keyboard— it’s perfectly correct to substitute a double-s, as in Strasse.
Now you never, ever start a word with an es-zett, so German didn’t have an uppercase ß until ẞ was introduced in 2017. You might come across a ẞin German dictionaries, but you won’t often see it anywhere else.
German Numbers Go Backwards
Numbers are often the first thing you learn, because counting is pretty easy. Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier, Fünf, Sechs, Sieben, Acht, Neun, Zehn. Simple, huh.
Not when you start counting higher.
Many German numbers go backwards — 24, for example, is four-and-twenty, Vierundzwanzig.
But that’s nothing compared to the shock of encountering those really high numbers. Try saying this one in a hurry.
To be fair, this number’s a mouthful in English, too. Seven hundred seventy-seven thousand, seven hundred seventy-seven, to be precise.
The German language is riddled with quirky traits, so just go with the flow and enjoy the laughs.
#4 German YouTubers Are The Bomb
Speaking of laughs, German YouTubers are insane (in a good way).
- My friend Anja, Learn German with Anja, makes high-energy videos to get those language concepts into your brain.
- Trixi, from Don’t Trust The Rabbit, is so entertaining with videos showing social situations and typical German behaviour. Her lessons are quick and easy to follow, with loads of cheeky humour!
- Finally, check out Knallerfrauen (Fire-woman) when you want a laugh. Not only are the sketches hilarious, but some don’t even have dialogue, so anyone can follow the absurd situations.
Watching German YouTubers can be a fun-filled way to boost your language learning.
We could even express it with a formula: Loves watching YouTube + wants to learn a language + laugh-out-loud funny = Learn German!
#5 Make More Money With German
German is one of the ten most powerful languages in the world—and it’s not just me saying that.
The Power Language Index measures the power of languages by the five doors—or opportunities— they can open for you. Broadly speaking, they are:
- Knowledge and media
German consistently ranks in the top seven power languages, along with English, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian.
Meanwhile, The Economist places German at the top of the highest-paying languages you can learn to boost your income.
If you’re a techie, German is practically a must. More than 45% of tech jobs requiring a second language ask for German.
Honestly, you wouldn’t believe how many emails I’ve had from students saying that learning German was the best thing they’d ever done for their careers.
But we’re not just talking hardcore degree-level jobs here. If you sell things online, start thinking about your website.
I bet you made your website in your own language, right? Well, here are a couple of stats to knock your socks off.
Did you know that 60% of online consumers rarely or never buy from English-only websites?
And 72.4% are more likely to buy products if they read the information in their native language?
Yeah! You probably should check out what languages your competitors offer—and consider how you can offer German and other languages on your website, too.
Which Industries Could Benefit From Including German?
Good question! Think engineering, science, cars, IT, tourism, chocolate…
Yes! In fact, Germany has a massive cocoa industry. They’re actually Europe’s leading chocolate manufacturer, producing around 1,182,000 tonnes of chocolate products in 2020 alone. Wow!
And you should see the sales figures for organic foods. German food retailers get a huge boost from organic food sales—about 10.2 billion euros in 2022.
Seriously, insane stats about Germany aside, there’s a wealth of opportunity in many countries if you speak German. In fact, watch ANY YouTube video about languages that can make you the most money, and German will be there.
#6 Germans Love To Travel
Germans seem to be everywhere!
Germany ranks in the top five countries worldwide for the most paid vacation days. Not only are they entitled to a bare minimum of 20 vacation days, but many workplaces have agreements for more than that.
So, they love to travel and have the vacation days to do it.
Moreover, German people are record holders when it comes to holiday spending.
So, if you have a shop you think Germans will like, it’s seriously worth taking a basic German course before they come browsing.
#7 Go To University For Free (Well, Almost)
Germany is an international student magnet, making the German language your gateway to a first-class education.
Studying at a public university in Germany is almost free—or indeed a lot cheaper than in many other countries. Do a little research, and you’ll unearth several institutions that charge international students less than €500 a year.
That’s seriously good value compared to the hefty prices in some countries! There are some great scholarships on offer, like the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)
The catch is that many courses are taught in German, so… you really need to speak the language to take advantage of these incredible offers. That’s why you often have to prove you’re proficient in German before they let you in.
Quite apart from that, you’ll have a much better experience all round if you learn at least some German before you get there. Germans take great pride in their language and tend to be reserved around those who don’t speak it.
So, I recommend you learn the basics before plunging into their world.
Speaking of which, it’s my goal to help language lovers like you find the easiest and most effective way into German. Here at StoryLearning we teach languages through STORIES, simply because that’s the best way I’ve found.
You see, people learn naturally through story. It’s how we learn our first language, and it works for new languages too.
#8 Grimms Fairy Tales
Princesses, poison and peril—you get them all in the Grimm Brothers’ legendary stories.
In fact, the Brothers Grimm were collecting fairy tales in Germany long before Walt Disney came along and watered them down, (Have you ever read the original stories? Man, some of them are dark!)
And here’s another fascinating thing. When Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were gathering tales around Germany, most people couldn’t read or write. Consequently, storytelling was crucial for preserving their language and culture.
The Grimms recorded the vernacular speech of the storytellers so they could preserve the exact original meaning. That means they were treasure troves of stories AND archives of German dialects. The concept was pure genius!
But wait, there’s more! Not only did the Grimm brothers collect stories, and kick off a whole new field of study called Folkloristics. They also compiled a massive German language dictionary.
You can see it on display at Grimmwelt (Grimm World) — all 33 volumes of it.
So, if you’ve finished my StoryLearning Books and want to dive into more German reading, try reading the original Grimms Fairy Tales in German. Just keep the lights on!
#9 A Whole New (Internet) World
You can find ANYTHING on the Internet these days, right? Hmmm—not if you only search in English, you can’t.
In fact, about 6% of the Internet is written in German, and the domain ‘dot-de’ used to be second only to ‘dot-com’. So, it could be worth learning German if you want a more prominent online presence for your business.
German gives you access to at least another 15 million websites—and that’s not even counting the German sites ending in .net, .org and .info.
#10 Freedom Of Artistic Expression
The German Constitution GUARANTEES the independence of arts and culture in Germany.
Yes, that’s right! Article 5, section 3 couldn’t be plainer: “Arts and sciences, research and teaching shall be free.” In other words, Germany understands that arts and culture are vital for developing modern democracies.
That’s massive, don’t you think?
It gives German artists a colossal lift and contributes to the vibrant arts scene right around the country, especially in Berlin.
Germany appreciates artists so much that the state provides funding under KSVG (Artist’s Social Insurance Act) and the KSK (Artist’s Social Insurance Fund.)
They even have a Freelance Visa for artistic foreigners to come and join the party. Art alone won’t get you in, so don’t just buy a plane ticket and hope. Do everything to look like a great candidate. I’d learn German (at least to B1) before applying if it were me.
#11 Experience The Perfect Christmas
Germany at Christmas time is a never-to-be-forgotten experience.
Towns up and down the country transform into light-filled wonderlands of sparkling snow, magical music, incredible decorations and tasty treats with names you can’t pronounce.
Christmas markets like the Essen International Christmas Market swing into high gear in November and December. Some are relatively modern, and others (like the one in Leipzig) can trace their origins right back to the 15th century.
Of course, you can show up in December and enjoy Christmas without speaking German. But it’s WAY more fun when you know what to ask for and where to go.
Let’s Wrap This Up: Why Learn German?
See what I did there? Christmas—Wrap?
Seriously though, the German language is one of the keys to understanding the people—their culture, history and how German society works.
If you’re planning a trip there for work or play, speaking German will pretty much guarantee you have a better experience.
Knowing German can boost your business and catapult you into more lucrative jobs.
And, with all the feasts, fantasy and fabulous dialects on offer, you can have a lot of fun along the way. Consider it a well-deserved treat after all your work getting to grips with the German language.