Tuesday 6 December 2016

In my opinion: Why students learning German will help the economy

Karin Fichtinger-Grohe, Acting Chargé d'Affaires at the Austrian Embassy

Published 13/10/2010 | 05:00

Learning another language gives students the chance of getting to know a new culture and make new friends.

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Language skills help you to communicate, understand and deal with all the different information you face daily. In difficult economic circumstances each additional skill, such as a foreign language, is of added value.

I want to suggest German as an important and interesting language that certainly should be considered carefully when a choice between various languages must be made.

In Europe more than 100m people speak German as their mother tongue, and it is therefore the most commonly used language. German is not only spoken in Germany. There are other countries, such as Austria and Switzerland, and regions such as South Tyrol in Italy where the language is spoken as well.

Germany is well-known for its leading and trade-orientated economy. It is not only the EU's biggest economy, it is also Ireland's fourth largest trading partner. There are 300 German companies in Ireland employing more than 20,000 workers, including world leaders like Siemens, SAP, Deutsche Bank and Allianz.

Austria is not only a famous tourist destination for skiing in winter but offers a treasure trove of outdoor adventure, family fun and excitement for all ages.

In addition to this, Austria as a business location is very profitable for international investors. It provides optimal access to the growth markets of Eastern and southeastern Europe.

Switzerland is a country with four official languages and, as such, a treasure by itself. The Swiss economy is one of the strongest worldwide and is also a natural and important partner of Ireland and the European Union altogether.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland all have much to offer -- you might discover a lot about all three countries during your German classes.

All three countries are represented by their Embassies in Dublin and all three cooperate very closely in promoting the German language.

One of the most recent initiatives was presented by the Austrian Embassy in St Kilians German School in Dublin last month.

The project Klaras Kiste (Klara's Box) is based on a book of the Dutch/Austrian writer Rachel van Kooij who moved to Austria at the age of 10. Van Kooij has already won several prizes and her books were translated into many languages. A working group of Irish German teachers and German primary and secondary teachers together with two Austrian language assistants put together teaching material for Irish German classes for the Transition Year and above.

As an outstanding offer to teachers and their students Rachel van Kooij is prepared to answer their questions by mail and will come back to Ireland for a reading series in participating schools in March 2011. The project has the support of the Austrian and Irish Ministry for Education.

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan wrote in her foreword: "Bilateral projects in the area of education foster strong interest in other countries among our young people and serve to strengthen our sense of European identity.

"Developing an interest in the literature, language and culture of another country is an enriching and valuable educational experience."

Irish Independent

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