Number of French students learning German on the rise in recent years

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A few recent numbers showing an increase in the number of French students learning German have made headlines in the French and German press over the past few days. The original article publishing the numbers is this one from Le Figaro, which says:

The learning of German has begun to make some timid progress in France after a free fall in the number of people learning German until 2004 when France and Germany made the decision to counter this trend. Since then the fall has been halted and since 2006 there has even been a slow progression. Now there are 823 277 students learning German in France, for a total of 15.4% compared to 15.2% in 2006. This progression should continue along with the increase of students choosing German upon entry to sixth grade (90 567 in 2009 compared to 73 763 in 2003).

The elite image associated with German, its reputation of being difficult to learn and its history in the 20th century has seriously undermined its teaching over the past few decades. However, Germany is France's largest commercial partner and some 3000 German enterprises are located in France.
It also mentions that there is a shortage of teachers, and that movies such as Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) have also contributed to its growing popularity. Here's one of the more famous scenes from the movie:

- Bist du wirklich bei der Stasi? (Are you really from the Stasi?)
- Weisst du überhaupt, was das ist? Der Stasi? (Do you know something about that, what Stasi is?)
- Ja, das sind schlimme Männern, die anderen einsperrn darf, sagt mein Papa.  (Yeah, they're bad people that lock others away, says my dad.)
- So. Wie heißt den dein... (Ah. So then, what's the name of your...)
- Mein was? (My what?)
- ... Ball... Wie heiß den dein Ball? (Ball. What's your ball's name?)
- Du bist aber komisch, Bälle haben doch keinen Namen. (You're weird. Balls don't have names.)

An article here in German sums up the article from the Figaro (so no new numbers there), and a guy from Handelsblatt has a blog post here expressing his surprise at the numbers, since German has always had a bit of an uphill battle in France given that 1) Germany just isn't a tourist destination for most in France (it's colder in the winter and no less expensive either) compared to places like Spain and Italy that have the Mediterranean, and 2) Spanish is easier for French people to learn too.

Edit: an image here shows us the percentage of French students that learned German since 2000, and goes as follows:

2000 - 18.2%
2001 - 17.5%
2002 - 16.6%
2003 - 16.1%
2004 - 15.7%
2005 - 15.4%
2006 - 15.2%
2007 - 15.3%
2008 - 15.3%
2009 - 15.4%


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