Bid to promote German worldwide
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Well, you should, at least according to Germany's foreign minister.
Guido Westerwelle drew plenty of sarcastic remarks when he insisted on speaking German to a British reporter just after his election to parliament four months ago. Now, he's making it his official mission to promote his mother tongue.
"German is the language at the heart of Europe," Westerwelle said in a somewhat poetic statement at the outset of his new global campaign for the so-called "Language of Ideas," and he came up with reasons to learn German.
"It is the key to more than 350 German universities and colleges, to Europe's largest economy," Westerwelle said.
"It grants access to German literature, music, philosophy, and science, to the wealth of great European cultural traditions and, not least, it is the key to realising one's own goals and ideas."
Europe counts about 101 million native German speakers, according to the Foreign Ministry, and some 14.5 million people outside the country are studying the language.
That number is down, however, from about 17 million only three years ago, and Berlin is noting, with some alarm, the increasing importance of English as well as efforts by Spain and China to promote their respective languages.
The new campaign aims to combine and highlight the multitude of existing language teaching and cultural projects - without actually spending more than the 300 million euro (£267 million) provided by the government in 2009.
They want to inspire young people worldwide to take up German and "to motivate decision makers in politics, education, business, and the media within Germany and outside to promote German as a foreign language," the ministry said in a statement.
Westerwelle has stressed the beauty of German repeatedly ever since a somewhat notorious press conference in late September, when a BBC reporter asked him if, possibly, the foreign minister to be would answer a question in English.