Why is the German language so complex

Over 15 million learn German : The German language is gaining in importance worldwide

The German language is currently experiencing an interesting global development. For some years now, the number of people learning German in the world has been increasing. Whenever the technical and professional benefit of the language is recognizable or if cultural interest can be focused on certain developments, this has an international effect. There is also migration, in which the German language is the key to integration and receives additional attention.

This does not mean that the German language competes with English as number one as a world language. Understanding and communicating around the world would hardly be possible without English as the international lingua franca. But German is without a doubt one of the most important cultural languages.

Our vocabulary is more comprehensive and differentiated than in any other language. A recent study has shown that the corpus of contemporary German used as a basis contains more than five million words. That is almost a third more than in a comparable corpus from 100 years ago. And it shows how dynamic the German language is. German is therefore a historically grown, traditional and complex asset, precise in the forms of expression of the exact sciences and at the same time ambiguous in literature and poetry, a living language that can create new things in terms of language.

The status in school policy is problematic

At the beginning of the 20th century, the importance of German was still paramount, especially in the sciences. But after the First World War and due to the atrocities of the National Socialist era, the German language experienced a massive decline. It became the language of monsters. The Germans were ashamed of their language. It was a long way before German was once again equated in the world with culture, civilization, science and international understanding.

But it's similar to other cultural assets: a lack of attention makes them less attractive, less expressive. The status of the language sinks, it becomes more like a dialect in meaning. If we in Germany take our responsibility for our own language seriously, then it creates a willingness to get involved abroad too. It is advisable to have more passion for the German language - and to pursue an active language policy. The importance of one's own language in school policy is problematic. At the moment German lessons are being reduced instead of expanded, the language with its cultural and literary references is being degraded to a tool of a lingua franca.

Around 100 million people currently speak German as their mother tongue and as many again as a foreign language. 15.5 million people around the world are currently learning German. In the 160 or so Goethe Institutes in the world alone, there has been an increase of 20 percent in the last five years, and German exams by 30 percent. Overall, it can be stated that there is an increasing or constant trend in most countries. In Germany, an additional factor in the increase in German learners will be triggered by the Skilled Workers' Immigration Act. Many scientists see a direct relationship between thinking and speaking. Wilhelm von Humboldt put it in the same way: Every language I learn opens a new world for me.

The German language as a scientific language is a cause for concern

The Goethe-Institut, the Central Office for Schools Abroad and the DAAD advocate new approaches to the German language abroad. In addition to the German schools abroad, the “Schools - Partners for the Future” program has been a successful global model since 2008. In the now 2000 PASCH schools, German language departments are being set up, teachers are being trained and the schools are being equipped with teaching and learning material. The focus is on China, India, Indonesia and Brazil.

However, globalization has not always been helpful for the German language. In those countries where German was the first foreign language, it was replaced by English. This applies to Russia, for example. At the end of 2015, the Russian Ministry of Education decided that every student should learn two foreign languages. This reversed the trend. The “Germany Years” of the Federal Republic with its cultural programs are also used to make language policy. In the USA, for example, 60 high schools and universities as well as a student exchange program are currently promoting the German language, especially science and technology.

Despite all the optimism that can be derived from the figures: One has to worry about the German language as the language of science. Scientific descriptions often work with images or metaphors from everyday life. This is how science can communicate itself to society and vice versa. If this connection is broken, knowledge sharing and social legitimation can quickly dwindle. The less German is spoken in science, the less society in Germany will speak about science.

Monolingualism in science is a loss

The scientific language German can only be strengthened if relevant research results are developed and published in it. There are few at the moment. More than 90 percent of these publications are in English, the reference databases are purely English. Monolingualism in science is a loss and always a cognitive limitation. A lasting plea for multilingualism, a much better knowledge of the language choice behavior of international scientists with regard to German and a kind of mapping of the importance of the German language for various disciplines - all of this would have to be worked out.

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