"One, two, mama's coming through, three, four, daddy's at the door…" the rhyme rings out of one of the teaching rooms at the Goethe Center in Tirana. A group of children aged from 8 to 12 is learning German through music and song. This is the first children's course that has been offered by the Goethe Center in the Albanian capital.
"We kept getting requests from parents about children's courses and now, since we moved into the new building, we have the space to be able to offer these courses," said the director of the Goethe Center, Petra Behlke-Campos, in an interview with DW.
In Albania there is great interest in the German language, in Germany and in German culture. In the last year the rush on German courses and examinations has steadily risen and the new German Center has about 4,000 German language students - 22 percent more than the previous year. This is another reason why they needed to move into a new larger building.
But it is not only in Albania where there is a high level of interest. The desire to learn German has also noticeably increased in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. According to Matthias Makowski, who is responsible for the southeastern Europe region at the Goethe Institute in Athens, "German knowledge in the Balkans has never been as valuable as it is today."
The numbers speak for themselves. According to a recent survey the number of people learning German in the region has risen sharply. Private German language schools are also booming.
"People in the Balkans are learning German through courses at the Goethe Institute, at universities and at schools that belong to the PASCH network, an initiative called 'Schools: Partners for the Future' which offers extra German language training," explained Makowski. "In Macedonia the number of people learning German is around 63,500, in Bosnia and Herzegovina the numbers are around 307,000, in Serbia around 140,000 and in Greece around 268,530."
Language to expand job opportunities
Neriona Vorpsi (25), Keti Mica (23), Lueda Basho (23) and Ardit Dyrmishi (22) studied medicine in Tirana and would like to do specialist medical training in Germany. They don't yet know if they would like to stay in Germany and work. But Erjona Sela (19) has ambitious plans: she is currently finishing high school and would like to study electronic engineering and become an astronaut. She read in the media about the physicist graduate, Laura Winterling, who wants to be the first German woman in space and would like to do that too.
"We're seeing the greatest increase especially in the area of adult education," said Behlke-Campos.
But amongst those in adult education courses, most of the participants in the southeastern European countries are young people. As a general rule, these people have school leaving qualifications, often a university degree and want to learn German in preparation for a job, an internship or studies. Usually the study is a second degree or graduate study. Some want to do a doctorate in Germany or in a German-speaking country, explains Behlke-Campos.
Learning German for fun
But not everyone is learning German so they can leave their home country and seek a future elsewhere. Bledar Qira, who is an engineer, and his wife Matilda, a psychologist, are learning German for fun and to expand their educational horizons. Eglantina Steri (52) and Aiger Hila (25) are learning German for quite different reasons. Eglantina's son studied electronic engineering in Germany and now works for Daimler in Stuttgart. "I often go and visit him and I would like to be able to talk with his friends or do things in the city by myself, " she said. And Aiger would like to be to talk with his cousins who were born and grew up in Germany and who speak little Albanian. He is also thinking about doing a Master's degree in Germany.
Apart from the hoped-for economic advantages of undertaking study and further training opportunities in Germany or another German-speaking country, many also learn German to be able to enjoy the culture, history, music, art, literature and film.
Joni and Egita, who are both eight years-old, love watching the cartoons they receive via satellite on a German children's channel called KIKA. They also attend the children's German course at the Goethe Center and are thrilled that after only a few weeks they can understand some of what their favorite cartoon characters are saying.