Difficult times for German as a foreign language

Posted on: 30. Juli 2010

It seems as though the future for German as a second language in Great Britain is fairly bleak. A steadily decreasing number of students has forced some German departments into closure, while others face significant cutbacks ( The statistics paint a depressing picture: According to statistics from HESA (Higher Education Standards Agency), in 2008/2009 there were a total of 2965 students enrolled on German undergraduate degree courses. That’s around 0.002% of the 1,272,030 undergraduate students in the country! Of course, all language departments in Britain are currently suffering falling numbers of students, but a quick comparison with the numbers of students of French (7990) or Spanish (5055)  shows the lack of interest in German. Even taking into account students on mixed language degree courses (4810), it’s fair to assume that a relatively small percentage of those study German as part of their degree. There are various possible reasons for this decline. Firstly, German is seen as a difficult language to learn. Secondly, students who decide to study languages tend to opt for „warmer“ languages such as French, Spanish or even Italian, or something a bit more exotic like chinese or arabic. German simply isn’t „cool“ enough. Finally, very few people learn German at school now, but very few universities offer German as an ab initio course: so numbers are limited to those whose schools still teach German.

However, it’s not all bad news, not least for those (like me!) who study German. According to the University of Bristol, only its medical students have better employment prospects than graduates in German. Why? It’s hard to say, but Germany remains an extremely important business partner for Britain and with so few Brits able to speak German, those who can have an immediate advantage in the job market……!



1 Response to "Difficult times for German as a foreign language"

This issue was once again in the news this week as A-level and G.C.S.E. figures showed further decline in the numbers of pupils taking French and German. This article re-inforces the points made above!


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