If you're thinking about learning a new language, German could well make an excellent choice. It may not leap to mind as an exciting language to have in your arsenal, but hear us out... While German doesn't have the romantic allure of French, or be considered a business asset like Chinese, the language wins hands down once you start considering its other strengths.
If you're worried we going to say you should learn German because 120 million native speakers worldwide, fear not. Below, we've covered the five most interesting reasons why German should take pride of place on your skills list.
1. German has an enormous cultural heritage
There's no getting away from the fact that a large percentage of the world's most impressive achievements were first conceived of in the German language.
Everything from music to science and literature to opera has deep roots in this rich and flexible language. Musically, German can lay claim to most of the classical greats, including Beethoven, Bach, Handel, Mozart and Brahms. Vienna, the capital of Austria and a German-speaking city through and through, has long been considered the world's musical heart.
On the science front, there's the most famous scientist ever to live, Einstein, but also contemporary scientists who are making huge contributions to our current lives. For example, a German was recently responsible for discovering the newest elements on the Periodic Table.
You'll never run out of books to read in German, particularly if you like your literature deep and philosophical: Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, Hermann Hesse, Ernst Jünger and Patrick Süskind are just a few names to get you started.
2. German is a very distinctive language
Although there are several languages that have Germanic roots, none are quite as distinctive as German itself. One of the main reasons for this is the language's common use of extremely long compound words. Today, the longest of these is 'rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz', an impressive 64 characters long - which translates into English as "beef labelling supervision duty assignment law". (If you're wondering, 'Rind fleisch' means beef flesh, 'etikettierungs' means labelling, 'Überwachungs' means supervision, 'aufgaben' means duties, 'Übertragung' means assignment and 'gesetz' means law). Try slipping that into conversation!
German is a living language, and as one of the only languages in the world that allows such outrageously lengthy compound words, it's anybody's guess as to what the next contender for the dubiously honorable title of Longest German Word might be.
3. German is beating everyone else online
The Internet has a lot to offer the fluent German speaker. After the .com domain, those websites ending with .de (the German equivalent of .co.uk) are the most populous. In fact, since .com doesn't really 'belong' to one country (although it's obviously the token domain of America), that makes Germany the country with the largest number of national domains.
Just imagine what you'd be able to find on the 8.1 million new domains suddenly available to you! To give you an idea of just how far ahead .de is, its closest competitor is .co.uk with a paltry 31,900,000 websites to call its own. Furthermore, German domain names are also more popular than .net, .org, and .info extensions.
4. It's a breeze to learn
Well, maybe not a breeze, but for the English speaker, German is often surprisingly easy to master. This is because the two languages have the same Germanic roots. In comparison, French, Italian and Spanish are known as the Romance languages and function very differently to English, making them much harder to learn.
This interesting table suggests that 40% of German words are similar to their English sounding counterparts. So, for example, 'bruder' and 'vater', which mean brother and father, are much more recognizable than the French equivalents of 'père' and 'frère'.
While we're on the subject of learning languages, mastering German will also improve your English. According to the American Association of Teachers of German, "vocabulary skills in English, a better understanding of the English language itself, improved literacy, higher reading achievement as well as enhanced listening skills and memory have been shown to correlate with German language study".
5. You'll always have someone to speak to
German speakers are some of the most well-traveled people in the world. Wherever you go, you'll find a German-speaking tourist to confide in.
In particular, it is the Germans themselves that really know how to travel: with about 6 weeks annual leave and plenty of disposable income, they have the time and the means to visit the further corners of the globe. German people spend more on foreign travel than those of any other nation; in 2007, they spent an astounding 91 billion Euros on international travel!
About the writer
Sarah writes for Pimsleur Approach, a provider of audio based courses that will help you learn
a language through programs like Pimsleur French which are based on the research of Dr. Pimsleur.