The German language has benefitted from globalisation. English is the undisputed global leader when it comes to studying a foreign language. But in the past few years, there has been a huge increase in people studying German in China, India and Pakistan. Three years ago, India had a mere 3,000 students studying German. Today, there are 50,000. The Goethe Institute attributes the popularity of German in Asia to the growing economic relationship Germany shares with the continent.
A student of German at the Goethe Institute (Max Mueller Bhavan) in New Delhi
Samin Chohan, an architect, has been a student at the Goethe Institute in Karachi, Pakistan for almost a year. He was inspired to learn the language while talking to a German architect.
"I am learning German as I have plans to study in Germany later this year", Samin says. "In order to survive in Germany you need to learn the language. I would simply say that it is a lot of fun. Going to another country with a completely different culture, learning their language is pretty much part of that culture! And I would like to speak German there rather than English because than I would really feel like: Yes, I am in Germany!"
Chohan is just one of the many Asians with similar aspirations of studying in Germany. Clements Treter, Deputy Head of the Goethe Institute in Beijing, China, says that there are currently around 27,000 Chinese students in German universities.
German popular as a second foreign language
There is an increasing awareness of the fact in China that it is not enough to learn one foreign language because everybody now knows English or has to know English. But to have something extra a lot of people started thinking about a second language.
The German Ministry of Education and the Goethe Institute have launched a worldwide project to tap growing interest in the German language. Susanne Baumgart, head of the "Schools -- Partners of the Future" project, explains:
"Many parents ask their children to learn German because it is a decision of the parent which language their children are going to study. I think the parents want to make sure they learn it in case the children want to study in Germany or they want to get a job in a German company later or, say in Indian company which is connected to a German company."
Not only commercial reasons
But business is not the only reason for learning German. In Pakistan, for instance, civil society groups are using the German language to promote human rights. Shamim Manzar, head of the language department at the Goethe Institute in Karachi, says:
"These NGOs often go to Germany for some sort of programme regarding the rights of women in Pakistan as well in Europe. And these women are really interested in learning German."
Some learn German purely out of love for the language and have a long-lasting relationship with it. For example, Nandana Pedanekar who runs the Synergy Institute for German Language and Inter-Cultural Relations in Mumbai, India.
"We had a very good teacher", she says. "And that made me choose German as my main subject for graduation and post graduation. I have realised that if you know the language of the particular country it opens doors and hearts of people and they appreciate it wholeheartedly."
So all across Asia, people are learning German for various reasons. After all, as one former director of the Goethe Institute once remarked, "English is a must and German is a plus!"