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Germans Like Foreign Languages

According to an article in this week’s DIE ZEIT (Nr. 27/2020), two thirds of Germans can hold a conversation in a foreign language. Nearly one third can speak two or three.

The authors of the article, Stefanie Kara and Stefan Schmitt, say the lockdown has given Germans a further reason – and time – to learn languages online. The majority do this because they’re interested in other cultures and enjoy meaningful recreation. Only one out of every eight Germans learns languages for their jobs.

As a German-to-English translator, I can attest to my clients’ excellent knowledge of English. Young and old, in every sector. If I don’t know a technical term, they are highly likely to know it themselves.

Globalization has made English the lingua franca of many companies. But although conversational English is one thing, perfect English is another. I have translated and edited countless presentations for German companies that operate internationally. Writing persuasive texts about my clients’ offerings makes up the bulk of my workload.

When I came to Germany many years ago, it annoyed me when I spoke German to people and they replied in English. I thought they were criticizing my German.

35 years later, that still happens. But now, I assume they’re eager to speak to someone in English and I’m happy to oblige them.