Article by Harald Leibrecht, Coordinator for Transatlantic Cooperation in the Field of Intersocietal Relations, Cultural and Information Policy, on the presentation of a special programme to promote German language instruction in the US. Published in “Die Welt” on 4 June 2012.
The United States is our most important partner outside Europe. This has been a guiding principle of German foreign policy since the founding of the Federal Republic. As times have changed over the past sixty years, so have the topics on the transatlantic agenda, but the significance of our relations remains unaltered. Germany has a fundamental interest in gearing these relations towards the future.
This also means keeping Americans interested in our country and conveying a modern image of Germany.
The situation for German language instruction in US classrooms is becoming increasingly difficult. The number of US schools teaching German has been declining for a long time. We need to react to this trend. We have a vital interest in cultivating ties to Germany and its culture among young people in the US. The first such ties are often forged at school, where language learning also serves as a conduit for interest in the country and its people.
That is why in the coming years the Federal Foreign Office will make the US a main focus of our programmes promoting German as a foreign language.
We already have a solid network of five German international schools and 85 additional partner schools. Each year more than 10,000 pupils, 1500 students and several hundred school and university German instructors from the US cross the Atlantic to visit Germany. This direct contact with the language and culture of Germany plays a formative role in modern, vibrant German language learning.
But we also want to reach the roughly 500,000 pupils learning German at US schools who have never been to Germany or Europe – via modern media, for example, and summer language camps.
At the same time, we need to face the reality that our funds are limited. This makes it all the more important for us to use the available funds in a targeted manner – both regionally and in terms of content – and to develop new, innovative ideas.
As we do so, we can count on the cooperation of many outstanding German and American partners. If we all work together, we can achieve a great deal – both for the German language and for German-American relations.