Thousands of Italians suddenly swarm to German

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Another one of these articles on the increasing popularity of German in southern Europe. One reason to pay continual close attention to this is because it is not yet certain whether this is a temporary wave or the sign of something more permanent. I'm more inclined to think of this as something of a permanent nature, for one easy reason: German for the past two decades or so has been consistently undervalued in schools in comparison with its usefulness, and so this is more of a realization of something that was already there (big economy + visa-free employment) rather than a bubble.
"It's getting worse and worse", says Massimo. The communities in Italy for which the self-employed craftsman works are virtually bankrupt, paying Massimo's invoices with months of delay. Sometimes it takes a year for him to get his money. But he needs to pay straight away for materials, taxes and levies, often on credit. Massimo has no more desire for Italy, and is trying his luck in the north. "Ick gehe nack Deutscheland", he says. Nearby Ulm he has relatives, which is where he wants to go and make more money than at home. One small problem: he has to learn German. "Das sär schwierige", he says. But he can do it...Learning German is suddenly in: in schools and universities, in Goethe-Institut courses or private language schools. More than 400,000 Italian students in middle and high schools now choose German as their second foreign language. In 2011 the number of those studying German increased by 18 percent, in this year there should be an even larger increase. French and Spanish, however, are on a downward trend.

Germany is Italy's largest trading partner. 16% of all imports are made in Germany, 13% of all Italian exports go over the Alps to Germany. Over 2000 companies in Italy are branches of German companies, where 170,000 Italians work.

Already there are signs of a new south to north migration. This one is not nearly as large as that in the 50s and 60s, and today migrants are not working as steel workers, garbage men, pizza bakers or ice cream men. Instead there are challenging jobs for the well-educated.

Even pure Italian companies discover the worth of the German language for their business. 80% of Italian companies which offer positions for candidates with a knowledge of two foreign languages require German knowledge alongside English.


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