How many Chinese learn English here

ShanghaiTrend towards German as a foreign language in China

A Friday morning in the Shanghai Goethe Language Learning Center. Teacher Wu LingLing stands in front of her B1 class with ten students. B1 means: The learners have reached a language level with which they are able to speak and understand a few sentences in German at a time.

"Please speak slowly, then I can understand that well."

David Dou from Shanghai is 35 years old and one of the oldest in the class. Most of the people here are in their early twenties. David has a professional motivation to learn German.

"I would like to do business in Germany. I have already registered my business in Germany: import / export for auto and electrical parts. Germany has a very positive image in China."

Jan Sprenger from the Goethe-Institut Beijing, he coordinates the nine Goethe language learning centers in China:

"We have had a development in recent years that has shown a high rate of increase. Course participants throughout the country are increasingly learning German: at the Goethe language learning centers, at the Goethe-Institut but also in other institutions. Comprehensive. Starting with students in schools , over universities to adult education. We see a clear interest in German and Germany. "

Just a full-fledged Goethe Institute in China

The Goethe language learning centers are among the most popular commercial providers of German courses in China. For legal reasons, there is only one fully-fledged Goethe-Institut in the country, namely the one in Beijing. That is why it works with local Chinese educational institutions in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Qingdao and five other cities. The whole thing under the name language learning center.

"In the beginning it is very difficult. Why is the table 'the' and the book 'the'?"

Course participant Shao Tang, 27 years old: "I might want to go to Germany in the future to study German language and literature there. The universities in Germany have a very good reputation."

Studying in Germany is the most common motivation for German learners in China. It can also be a motivation to get ahead in your job. But there are also more unusual reasons. Language learning center coordinator Jan Sprenger.

"There are always students who are interested in German philosophy or German law. And there are a relatively large number of musicians who then want to sing songs by Schubert or others and then mainly want to learn German because of the pronunciation."

German pronunciation is difficult

German pronunciation in particular is particularly tricky for many course participants in China. Because in Chinese there are completely different basic sounds than in German.

For example, a word like "squirrel" is Chinese "SongShu".

"Eich ... Squirrel ... Eich-Hörn-Schn. That is very difficult! There are a lot of squirrels in Germany. Or?"

Also in terms of meaning and meaningfulness, the differences between Chinese and German could hardly be greater. 27-year-old Shao Tang.

"The passion. I think it sounds good. But the meaning is a bit strange. Because 'suffering' is negative, but 'passion' is something very positive."

Teacher Wu LingLing does a group exercise with her ten students. Arguments are exchanged in teams of two. Living in Shanghai: is it good or not recommended?

"Many students, when they start here with us, are sometimes shocked. In Chinese schools, you listen well and the teacher speaks alone. There is little interaction. Here, on the other hand, we sell the concept: learning a language must also be fun do."

"We try to create situations that you will experience in everyday life in Germany. That could be, for example, a situation in a café where you order a coffee. How do I actually do that? Of course, grammar is a field for us, but it is always only a means to an end. While in the classical direction in Chinese educational institutions the grammar is always an end in itself. "

Second foreign language is now compulsory at secondary schools

The trend towards German as a foreign language is likely to grow even faster in the future than it has done so far. The Chinese state recently decided that in addition to English, a second foreign language must always be offered at the country's secondary schools. The schools can decide for themselves whether this is Korean, Japanese, Spanish, French or German.

"This is an interesting time for us to realize: which language the parents are interested in so that the children learn it later." "It's a completely different language than Chinese. Accusative, dative and 'der, die, das' - that's all more difficult for me. But I am studying German hard!"