The importance of the German language in German-speaking Europe

Authors: Lucas Migray / Sandra Santos

The countries in the German-speaking Europe (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) are known for the fact that their inhabitants have good English skills. In fact, as a tourist you can get well around speaking only English. But what about the world of work? Today’s post is based on the experience of people we know or their acquaintances.

Although English is spoken by almost everyone in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it doesn’t mean you can live in these countries without knowing German (except for Switzerland, where many companies do offer jobs only expecting you to speak English and a part of the public life can happen in English).

But even in you are planning to look for a job in Switzerland, the truth is that life gets more complicated without German, starting with the bureaucracy. In the Foreigners’ Office, for example, only German is spoken. The letters from local offices you get are all in German.

Even in the supermarkets and bakeries you need German to get along. At the train stations (again, except for Switzerland) you hear the statements only in German, also in the buses. We think you understand what we mean.

Even in the companies, when you sit with your colleagues in the lunch break, everyone talks in German. You can indeed say something in English: everyone will understand it and answer shortly before they dive back into German. In a way, it is taken for granted: someone whose native language is German can, in theory, express himself better in German than in any other language. Life in these three countries may be quite international, but nevertheless the consumption of German is deeply rooted, and unlike the Netherlands, where almost all universities teach in English, this is an exception in Germany.

The reason why Switzerland is an exception in this rule is that Swiss people grow speaking many languages: they speak Swiss German and learn High German (for them a foreign language). Most of them will speak also English, French or Italian. There is even a part of Switzerland where one speaks Romansh, a language spoken predominantly in the southeastern Swiss canton of Grisons (Graubünden). In fact, Switzerland has four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh.

Getting back to German, a reason why it’s really worth to learn it, even if you are in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, is the feeling of being at home: if you know a language, you tend to create a bond with the country where the language is spoken. In other words, if you know German, you are not only halfway to integration, you also feel an invisible connection to the place where you live. If you know German, you get closer to the locals. You start to understand the reasons for people’s thoughts and actions and begin to see things from a different perspective.

Learning a new language is not only a good idea when it comes to your CV, but also for your brain. There are many further advantages you should consider:

  • You will expand your brain capabilities
  • You will have better memory
  • You will become more flexible, considering further aspects in your day-to-day life
  • You will have better listening skills
  • You will increase your verbal and non-verbal skills
  • Your attention (to details) will increase
  • You will be better at multitasking
  • You will be more creative
  • You will increase the sources to learn and expand your reality

In a constantly changing world, you must never stop learning.

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