Where in the world are more people learning German?

The number of people learning German across the world is increasing, particularly in neighbouring countries, as well as in Africa and Asia.

Where in the world are more people learning German?
More people are learning German. Photo: DPA

Every five years the German Foreign Office aims to find how many people are learning German in classrooms and universities across the world.

In the latest “German as a Foreign Language” study, researchers found that interest in learning Deutsch is growing, particularly in Africa and Asia.

The study, published on Thursday by the Federal Foreign Office, the Goethe-Institut, Deutsche Welle, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA), found the number of schools with German lessons has risen from 95,000 in 2015 to about 106,000 in 2020.

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At universities, 1.27 million students are currently learning German. Compared to 2015, there is a decrease of about 60,000.

It means German as a foreign language is on the timetable for more than 15.4 million people across the globe. Overall it's a slight increase from 2015 – but the number of German learners peaked in 2000 when 20.1 million were learning the language.

However, these figures are all the tip of the iceberg because the research does not include people who are learning the language on their own.

Where are people learning German?

Not surprisingly, Europe has the highest number of German learners, with 11.2 million. The study notes an increase of 18 percent to 1.185 million for the neighbouring countries Denmark, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and France.

In France alone, the number rose from over one million in 2015 to almost 1.2 million. In a forecast, the survey anticipates a further increase in interest in German there.

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Russia is also experiencing stronger demand for the language, with an increase of 16 percent to 1.79 million learners.

Poland, on the other hand, has seen a sharp drop in demand. But with 1.95 million Deutsch speakers, it remains the country with the most German learners worldwide.

The number of German learners in the UK has also dropped – by 25 percent – which researchers believe could dip even further in future due to Britain leaving the EU.

Rise in German learners across Africa
For the African continent, the study records an increase of German learners of almost 50 percent compared to 2015, with increasing interest in Egypt, Algeria and Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), for example.

There is also more demand for German in Asia, especially in China.

Meanwhile, the cooler German-American relationship seems to be reflected in the demand for German. In the US, the number of people learning German has fallen by 15 percent over the past five years.

READ ALSO: Good knowledge of German results in 'better pay' for foreigners

The need for skilled workers from abroad to have knowledge of German is playing an increasingly important role in promoting language skills, the study says.

Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, said that teaching the German language opens up future opportunities. She added that this would not only mean access to the German university system, “but also to a labour market that needs skilled workers with a knowledge of German”.

Johannes Ebert, Secretary General of the Goethe Institute, said German continues to be in high demand worldwide.

The number of course participants at the Goethe-Institut has increased by around 73,000 to 309,000.

“Our commitment to the German Immigration Act for Specialists particularly contributes to this,” said Ebert. However, the survey also shows that the promotion of the German language is particularly necessary in those countries where the number of German learners has declined.

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The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

Once you've learned the basics of German, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for German learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German


Coffee Break German

Coffee Break German aims to take you through the basics of German in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where German native Thomas teaches Mark Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark, begins at the same level as you. He is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break German Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes

German Pod 101

German Pod 101 aims to teach you all about the German language, from the basics in conversations and comprehension to the intricacies of German culture. German Pod 101 offers various levels for your German learning and starts with Absolute Beginner.

The hosts are made up of one German native and one American expat living in Germany, in order to provide you with true authentic language, but also explanations about the comparisons and contrasts with English. This podcast will, hopefully, get you speaking German from day one.

Their website offers more information and the option to create an account to access more learning materials.

Learn German by Podcast

This is a great podcast if you don’t have any previous knowledge of German. The hosts guide you through a series of scenarios in each episode and introduce you to new vocabulary based on the role-plays. Within just a few episodes, you will learn how to talk about your family, order something in a restaurant and discuss evening plans. Each phrase is uttered clearly and repeated several times, along with translations.


Learn German by Podcast provides the podcasts for free but any accompanying lesson guides must be purchased from their website. These guides include episode transcripts and some grammar tips. 


Easy German

This podcast takes the form of a casual conversation between hosts Manuel and Cari, who chat in a fairly free-form manner about aspects of their daily lives. Sometimes they invite guests onto the podcast, and they often talk about issues particularly interesting to expats, such as: “How do Germans see themselves?”. Targeted at young adults, the podcasters bring out a new episode very three or four days.

News in Slow German

This is a fantastic podcast to improve your German listening skills. What’s more, it helps you stay informed about the news in several different levels of fluency.

The speakers are extremely clear and aim to make the podcast enjoyable to listen to. For the first part of each episode the hosts talk about a current big news story, then the second part usually features a socially relevant topic. 

A new episode comes out once a week and subscriptions are available which unlock new learning tools.

SBS German

This podcast is somewhat interesting as it is run by an Australian broadcaster for the German-speaking community down under. Perhaps because ethnic Germans in Australia have become somewhat rusty in their mother tongue, the language is relatively simple but still has a completely natural feel.

There is a lot of news here, with regular pieces on German current affairs but also quite a bit of content looking at what ties Germany and Australia together. This lies somewhere between intermediate and advanced.

A woman puts on headphones in Gadebusch, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: dpa | Jens Büttner


Auf Deutsche gesagt

This is another great podcast for people who have a high level of German. The host, Robin Meinert, talks in a completely natural way but still manages to keep it clear and comprehensible.

This podcast also explores a whole range of topics that are interesting to internationals in Germany, such as a recent episode on whether the band Rammstein are xenophobic. In other words, the podcast doesn’t just help you learn the language, it also gives you really good insights into what Germans think about a wide range of topics.


Bayern 2 present their podcast Sozusagen! for all those who are interested in the German language. This isn’t specifically directed at language learners and is likely to be just as interesting to Germans and foreigners because it talks about changes in the language like the debate over gender-sensitive nouns. Each episode explores a different linguistic question, from a discussion on German dialects to an analysis of political linguistics in Germany.