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.
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.
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.
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.