The British economy is hugely dependent on exports. In 2017, 54.4% of British exports went to the European Union’s single market, with Germany the second most important destination. However, 57% of all export managers trading with Germany have no knowledge of German (British Chamber of Commerce, 2013).
Poor language competency results in an overall loss of an estimated 3.5% of Britain's economic performance per year due to a lack of language skills.
Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world (after the US, China and Japan) (World Bank, 2017). It is among the largest exporting economies in the world, and of the world’s 100 biggest companies, 12 are German or Swiss, and 5 are British (Forbes, 2018).
Germany is becoming increasingly popular among UK tourists. According to UK government figures, around 2 million British nationals visit Germany every year. While many Germans speak English, you can enhance your travels substantially by speaking German.
German companies maintain about 2,500 places of business in the UK with nearly 400,000 employees, equaling around 1.23% of the British workforce, and have investments in the UK worth over € 140 billion (German Chamber of Commerce and Industry). They are especially strong in manufacturing in South East England and the Midlands. The leading German banking and insurance companies have their offices in the City of London.
German speakers are highly sought after by British employers. Businesses value foreign language skills among their employees, with 47% of them rating German as useful for their business, placing it ahead of Spanish and Mandarin. However, currently only 34% of businesses are satisfied with the foreign language skills of school and college leavers (CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2017).
German provides great job opportunities even in times of economic uncertainty. Linguistic and cultural fluency is a core competence of executives in multinational companies. There is a growing demand in the traditional careers of interpreting and translating. With the introduction of the English Baccalaureate and the reforms envisaged in the National Curriculum, schools are already actively looking for highly qualified German teachers. A study commissioned by the TEFL Academy (2017) lists German as the most lucrative language in the UK, with jobs requiring German paying an average salary of £34,534.
German is the most commonly spoken language in Europe with around 100 million speakers. It is an official language in seven European countries and provinces – Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Belgium and South Tyrol. German plays an important role as a foreign language in many other countries, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. Worldwide, there are currently some 15.4 million people learning German as a foreign language at language institutions and schools.
German and other foreign languages serve Britain’s national interest. It helps to better understand Germany’s policies pursued domestically and abroad. The FCO has already resumed its in-house language training to enable diplomats to secure Britain’s influence in Europe and the world. A 2017 British Council report identified German as one of the top five languages for the country’s prosperity after it leaves the European Union.
Learning German is fun. It is no harder to speak and write than other languages. Closely related to English, German is one of around 15 Germanic languages in a branch of the Indo-Germanic family of languages – so it’s easier to pick up than you might think! English speakers usually find German quite easy to pronounce, as both languages share common linguistic roots. Therefore rapid progress can be made while learning the language.
German is the key to a rich cultural heritage at the heart of Europe – for everyone. You might be keen to explore the vibrant culture of cities like Berlin, Munich, Vienna and Cologne, or to thoroughly understand the works of Goethe, Nietzsche, Beethoven, Bach, Freud or Einstein. German acts as your personal gateway to discover all of this and to shape your vision of the world.