The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) in 2020 has fundamentally changed the country’s relationship with the rest of Europe. As the UK government seeks to build new trade relationships with countries worldwide, one language that has taken on renewed importance is German.
Germany is the largest economy in the European Union and the fourth-largest globally. It is also the UK’s second-largest trading partner after the United States. In 2020, the UK exported goods worth £32.6 billion to Germany and imported goods worth £58.6 billion from Germany.
The German language in a globalised world
The close economic ties between the two countries make German a vital language for anyone doing business in or with Germany. German is also a language of science, technology, and innovation. Germany is home to some of the world’s leading research institutions, and German companies are at the forefront of many fields, including engineering, biotechnology, and renewable energy. If the UK is to continue to compete in these areas, it is vital that UK businesses and researchers can communicate effectively with their German counterparts.
The German language and the UK economy
The UK is home to many German-owned businesses, including carmakers, chemical companies, and retailers. These businesses employ thousands of people in the UK and contribute significantly to the country’s economy. Speaking German can help UK workers to communicate effectively with their German colleagues and to build strong working relationships.
Learning German can also give UK businesses a competitive advantage in the global market. German is the most widely spoken language in the European Union and the second-most commonly used language on the internet (after English). UK businesses can access a large and lucrative market of over 100 million German speakers worldwide by learning German.
In addition to the economic benefits, learning German can provide anyone with valuable cultural and educational opportunities. Germany has a rich cultural heritage, and German literature, music, and art have profoundly influenced European culture. Learning German allows one to appreciate and engage with this heritage and build bridges between the UK and Germany.
German is also an essential language for academic study. German universities are highly regarded worldwide, and Germany is a popular destination for UK students seeking to study abroad. Many of these students go on to work in fields such as science, technology, and international business, where knowledge of German can be a valuable asset.
Given the importance of German to the UK’s post-Brexit economy, it is concerning that the number of UK students studying German has been in decline in recent years. According to data from the Modern Language Association, the number of UK students studying German at university has fallen by over 40% since 2000.
This decline is likely due to several factors, including changes in the UK education system and the perception that English is the dominant language of international business. However, if the UK is to build strong and productive relationships with Germany and other German-speaking countries, more UK students must learn German.
To address this issue, the UK government has launched several initiatives to promote the study of German in schools and universities. These include funding for teacher training and the development of new resources for language learning. The government has also established a UK-German Connection program to promote educational and cultural exchange between the UK and Germany.
German remains a vital language for the post-Brexit UK economy. It is the language of one of the world’s largest and most innovative economies and is spoken by over 100 million people worldwide. UK businesses and workers who speak German have a competitive advantage in the global market. UK citizens who speak German can benefit from valuable cultural and educational opportunities as the UK seeks to build new relationships with Germany and other German-speaking countries.
By Stefan Oloffs
Author: Stefan Oloffs is the founder of German Language Coach in London. Stefan assists professionals in speaking German confidently. He teaches German in one-to-one and group settings, both in-person and online.