The survey conducted by the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Goethe Institut, Deutsche Welle and the Zentralstelle für das Auslandsschulwesen (ZfA) found that people in neighbouring European countries account for around 11.2 million learners, with increased interest noted over the last five years in Denmark, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Russia.
“The teaching of the German language opens up future opportunities”
Learner numbers were shown to have decreased in Hungary and Poland, although the latter despite a 15% decrease remains the country with the highest number of German learners (1.95 million). Numbers in the US also dropped 15%.
Elsewhere, numbers have increased by almost 50% in Africa, particularly in Egypt, Algeria and Côte d’Ivoire.
Growth has also been seen in Asia, particularly in China.
The survey found the language is primarily learned at schools, many of which are partners in the PASCH initiative, which promotes German language and has around 2,000 partner schools in 100 countries. Around 309,000 people also learn German through the Goethe Institut.
Immigration may be a motivation driving the number of learners, with Germany requiring at least a B1 language level to obtain citizenship, and increased interest in the nation as a study destination.
German is now thought to have the same amount of learners as Spanish, although is ranks significantly less than the 82 million French learners and 1.5 billion English learners globally.
The survey suggested that the UK’s departure from the EU “seems likely to further accelerate the loss of interest in German”, which has plummeted by 25%.
“Learning German allows people abroad to build long-term relationships with a cosmopolitan Germany,” explained state minister for international cultural policy, Michelle Müntefering.
“The teaching of the German language opens up future opportunities – not just access to an excellent university system but also to a job market that needs specialists with knowledge of German.”
“German schools abroad and PASCH schools are in investment in good relationships between our societies because these bonds often last a lifetime,” Müntefering added.
The survey also took digital learning into account for the first time, noting that online learning opportunities were becoming increasingly important both for teaching the language and for training teachers.
The results of the survey are available (in German) here.