It’s that time of the year in our American school district for 6th graders and their parents to make decisions regarding which world language to study. I would like to offer reasons to study German. The emphasis these days is on having high school graduates being college and career ready. To that end we offer college credit courses to our levels 4-5 of the languages offered.
Some parents and educators are not aware that all the German car manufacturers are now located in the Southern states, and some offer paid internships to train in manufacturing cars while continuing their education. Some can begin as young as age 16. As a matter of fact, students who know German will have a 4% boost in their annual salary in the US, and in Europe, the percentage is even higher.
Considering the current cost of attending college in the US, parents should also be aware that German colleges offer free degrees to Americans. Free. As a German teacher, I attempt to inform my current students about their options in college and careers. I encourage them, for example, to continue German in college and perhaps to even minor or major in the language. My students know that if I had had the opportunity when I was in high school to take college credit level work, I would have taken all the possible courses I could in order to save college costs down the road. Parents do not like to burden their children with huge college loans. So it makes sense to consider German universities to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees.
While in high school, my parents offered all of us the opportunity to study abroad. Three of us took up the challenge. My original plans to study one year in Germany and six months in France changed to three years in Germany and two college degrees. I reluctantly returned to the US when my parents informed me that they had to put my other sisters through college as well. Those readers following this blog and my book already know that my parents lived through the Depression and WWII. My mother was trained as an RN but stayed at home with her daughters. Not one of us ever assumed a college loan. I wish I could say the same for my own two children. Those were different times.
Before he died, my father made a couple of trips from Colorado to Massachusetts to see us and his sister and brothers and to say goodbye to them. He asked me if I had had a good life and what had been the best part. Without hesitating, I said the three years of study had prepared me for my 48 year career teaching German. Two of those years were spent in Germany as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher. My study abroad was the impetus to pursue further graduate study in German in the US. As a Fulbright teacher, I was exposed to the excellent apprenticeship programs in German schools.
So what do I tell today’s 6th graders, or today’s high school graduates? Study German and study abroad for at least one year if not more. It is with you for a lifetime. No one can take your education away from you. No one. German will further careers in science, engineering, medicine, business as well as arts and literature to name just a few. German companies provide about 700,000 jobs for Americans.
Students in German schools begin the study of world languages in elementary school. And by the time German students graduate high school, they have three or more languages and are prepared for our global society. My mantra for my district has always been to begin total immersion world language learning in kindergarten and then add two or three more world languages in middle school and high school and become world class and competitive in the global world we live in. US students need to catch up with their counterparts in other countries.
In my book A Past Worth Telling, I made comparisons between German and US schools. I remain impressed with the high quality of schools offered in Germany. Their teachers come from the top 2% intellectually and are prepared to teach two subjects. To this day, my students and I collaborate with schools, teachers and students in Germany. The connections my students make will last a lifetime. What languages did I learn? Latin, German, French, Old Norse, Middle High German. The latter two were graduate school requirements. Research has revealed that the brain is wired for multiple languages and that after learning one, it is easier to acquire additional ones. It is never too late to begin. Isn’t it time for American students to be global citizens with knowledge of multiple world languages?