Taking the “awful” out of the German language

TheAwfulGermanLanguageAcquiring German language skills can sometimes be a frustrating endeavor, just as is the case with any other foreign language. Mark Twain apparently had his share of discouraging experiences when he studied the native tongue of Goethe and Schiller. However, not all English-speakers find German to be an “awful language” and Twain’s famous essay may just be a record of his own failure to learn.

Generations of language students have actually proven Twain wrong, and today German is still considered one of the most important languages in business. In fact, a 2012 Education & Skills Survey carried out for the Confederation of British Industry ranked German at the top of employers’ language wish list.

mkplus logoIn recent years, the relevance of Deutsch has been resurfacing in the Tennessee Valley as well, thanks to employers like Volkswagen or Wacker Chemie’s Polysilicon division. Not only is the language a desirable skill for the local workforce. Having access to continuous German education is also an important prerequisite for expatriate parents who want to make sure their children are well equipped linguistically when they return to the school system in their home country.
In Cleveland, TN this need has been met by a program which started out as German Saturday School and has since morphed into the German Language School, a service backed by Montessori Kinder‘s mkplus initiative.

GLSinfonightThe German Language School was started in 2010 and it was officially accredited by the Central Agency for German Schools Abroad (Zentralstelle für das Auslandsschulwesen, ZfA) at the beginning of the 2012/13 academic year. To further strengthen the ties with the local community and area schools, the German Language School and the ZfA will host an Info Night on March 1, 2013, where students and parents will hear from experts on how to qualify for the German Language Certificate (DSD) and what they need to attend a university in Germany.

ZfA logoPetra Reuter, the ZfA Language Advisor and Coordinator, and Susanne Ziemek, Boston-based representative of Baden-Württemberg International (bw-i), will provide a detailed report on “Studying in Germany” and acquiring the language certifications needed for admission at many post-secondary educational facilities in Germany.

DSD logoMs. Reuter will inform students and parents about the work of the ZfA and how the agency provides assistance to language schools where the German Language Certificate (DSD) can be acquired. The ZfA is competent for the design and the evaluation of the examinations, overseeing their distribution and implementation at accredited DSD schools like Cleveland’s German Language School by mkplus.

In her presentation, Ms. Ziemek will provide information on the different types of universities in the German State of Baden-Württemberg, and about the application and admissions procedures for these different university types. She will also give an update on the specific requirements for students graduating with a U.S. high school diploma and their possibilities for direct or indirect entrance into the German university system.

Despite all of these efforts, some of you might still get frustrated with the beautiful German language. In that case I’m afraid I don’t really know how to help. Of course you can forgo foreign language skills altogether, but be reminded that Germans even found a way to improve the English language to fit their needs.


ch (April'14).2Christian is a cultural trainer, coach, and consultant with extensive experience in working with multinational companies and especially in developing global leaders. He is the founder and owner of Höferle Consulting, where he leads a team of dedicated training, destination services, and expat support specialists. Christian works with global organizations (or those who are going global) to help their employees oversome cultural differences. Typically he only uses the word “normal” in quotation marks and he is an advocate for helping people understand the why of behaviors – not just the dos & don’ts. Find out more about Christian and follow him on Twitter. You can also see him, listen to him, and experience his work – just invite him! Or sign up for the Höferle Consulting newsletter.

6 thoughts on “Taking the “awful” out of the German language

  1. There is definitely a stereotype that the German language is harsh, gutteral and overall unpleasant and difficult. Movies and entertainers such as Rammstein certainly don’t help disabuse people of this notion!
    I recently was speaking German to a friend, and another friend commented that it sounded beautiful – she had never heard how pretty it can be before. It really is a lovely language and no less pleasant to the ear than English!

  2. I am a native of Tennessee. I have been working and living in France for the last 28 years and before that I lived and worked in Holland for a little over a year. I can testify that learning any language takes a lot of “Blood sweat and tears” but is highly satisfying at the same time. As for German, I have had and still have a lot of German friends. Gutteral and harsh are not really the first words that pop into my mind. It is hard to understand why German is not the first language taught in Europe. There are more Germans speakers than French, Italian, or Spanish. The German economy is the powerhouse of Europe. I am always a little surprised by the waning interest of German language in Europe.
    I like your Blog Christian. I have been following it for the last 4 weeks

  3. I learned my German in Austria and have an appreciation for how melodic it can be in its dialects. I’m currently living in France and trying to learn French which, at the age of 45, is no easy undertaking. Still, I’m a firm believer in language acquisition. Not only is it a great skill, but it also opens your mind to a different way of seeing and experiencing the world around you. Next on my list of languages to learn: Italian!

  4. A fascinating discussion is worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you ought to write more about this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but generally folks don’t discuss such issues.
    To the next! Best wishes!!

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