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German is an extremely popular choice for people looking to learn a second language, and for good reason. It is, after all, one of the world’s most widely spoken languages, the single most common native language in the European Union, the second most commonly used scientific language and the third most common language online.
While Germany is the most obvious country where German is spoken as an official language, it also enjoys such status in Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. Meanwhile, it is a recognised minority language in countries like Hungary, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.
The German language is the third most commonly taught second language in both the European Union and the United States of America. It is also estimated that one tenth of all books in the world are published in German. When native speakers, L2 speakers and speakers of German as a foreign language are combined, it is believed that the total number of global German speakers is somewhere in the region of 200 million people.
Such high levels of usage mean that German will continue as a popular means of communication for the foreseeable future, guaranteeing its usefulness. Its popularity as a second language also makes it easier to learn, as students will have no difficulty in finding people of all ability levels to practice with.
Choosing to acquire German as a second language can be an extremely rewarding decision, helping to boost your employment prospects, make travelling more enjoyable and open up the possibility of emigrating to a German-speaking country. Below are some of the best reasons to learn German as a second language:
In the modern, globalised world, having knowledge of the German language may be a desirable trait for many employers, even outside of German-speaking countries. Indeed, learning German can help to give you a competitive advantage in the business world, the scientific community, translation-based careers and in language teaching.
Although learning German has many advantages in terms of personal and career development, becoming truly proficient in the language will take time and dedication. Along the way, language students often encounter certain problems. The best strategy for avoiding problems is to familiarise yourself with them in advance.
One of the most common problems German language students encounter is that the German language has many different dialects and some of these dialects may be unintelligible to those who only know Standard German. Broadly speaking, the two main variations are High German and Low German, although High German includes a vast number of different dialects, which are grouped as either Central German, Upper German and High Franconian.
In addition, there are a number of varieties of Standard German, based upon location. For example, Standard German from Germany differs slightly from Swiss Standard German, or Austrian Standard German.
Furthermore, German grammatical rules can sometimes confuse language students in the early stages of the learning process. For example, German nouns are inflected by gender, case and number. Its three grammatical genders, in particular, mean that many different words may originate from the same root.
Finally, another example of a grammatical feature that can cause confusion is the use of special characters within the German alphabet. Officially, German uses the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, much like English. However, while they do not constitute separate alphabetical letters, the language includes use of umlauts (Ä/ä, Ö/ö, Ü/ü), as well as the Eszett (ß), which is sometimes referred to as the Scharfes S outside of Germany.