However serious you are as a student, there are many good reasons for learning German. Some of these are listed below and are explored in more detail later in this article.
● Learning German allows you to study at a fees free German university.
● Learning German allows you to get more out of a holiday or extended travel in any German speaking country.
● Learning German allows you to work or do serious business in a German speaking country.
Learning German to be Able to Study in Germany
If you are a foreign student and are interested in pursuing a course at a recognized university, one drawback is that international course fees have gone up almost exponentially. Once upon a time, countries like Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand used to offer cheap university and college courses to international students.
This was at a time when local students were able to study a university course either free or heavily subsidised by the state. Much has changed in the last twenty or so years. Even local students must now pay university and college course fees. They are generally no longer subsidised by the tax payer.
At the same time, universities have brought in a two tier system so that international students often pay twice the fees that local students pay. Basically, international students are now subsidising the universities that once subsidised them!
The reverse has happened in Germany. Although the change came quite late, the general policy for state owned universities in Germany is to provide fees free courses to both German and foreign students. This is a real boon, especially for those students from other countries in the E.U. who have no restrictions on being able to work and live in Germany. It’s a little different for those students who originate from outside the E.U. While they can study for free in a German university, there are important caveats.
One is that many courses are only in German, although there are also a surprising number in English. That means that if you are a serious student from India or Malaysia, two countries whose young people once flocked to Britain or Australia to study, must learn German if the course they want to pursue is only in German.
The other caveat is that there are restrictions on being able to stay in Germany. The appropriate visa must be obtained in advance. The visa can only be obtained if the student has enough assets to last their time through their course time. There are health and character checks. Although the actual course may be free (some courses offered at privately run universities are not free), the student must still pay for accommodation, food, transport and course materials.
The German government recognises that this might restrict courses to only rich students from overseas and accordingly, allows non E.U. students to work for up to 190 days maximum a year while on a bona fide course. This is actually a win-win situation for Germany as it has an aging population with low natural replacement. This means that without some immigration, there are not enough workers to keep the economy rolling along and pay for the increasing number of German pensioners.
Learning German to Visit a German-Speaking Country on a Holiday or Extended Stay
Even if you have no interest in studying formally in Germany, there are many good reasons to study German. Learning a language opens the door to so many more possible interesting experiences and provides a window on to a number of fascinating countries in central Europe. German is not just spoken in Germany. It is also the main language in Austria and an important language in Switzerland and the tiny countries of Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.
You will find that if you are a native English speaker that many people you meet will speak English. It can be quite embarrassing in fact to discover just how easily many Europeans speak more than one language. It is typical to find German speakers understanding at least one and sometimes two or three other languages. This may seem a disincentive as a casual potential student of German but it shouldn’t stop you.
Native German speakers are used to expecting native English speaking visitors to use English with them so may be relieved and glad you are doing something different. You will find that wherever you go, most signs and information will be in German, so one of the best ways of learning German yourself is to keep your dictionary handy and learn as you go!
Learning German to Enable you to Work or do Business in a German-speaking country
Because of the strength of the German economy there are often good, well-paid job opportunities in Germany. You will be at an advantage over possible competitors who are also foreigners if you speak and understand German fluently. Many students who either learn German in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, or attend another type of course, as has already been described above, often go on to find a lucrative job in Germany after their course finishes.