Germans see lingo of net as vital skill

April 28, 2000

"Ich beherrsche Englisch in Wort und Schrift" is becoming a key phrase in the minds of job-seeking Germans. "Without English will (you) soon be a dummy?" the German popular magazine Bild asked its readers.

And Germans are rising to the challenge. Figures just released show that last year about 750,000 adult Germans registered for evening classes in English. That is nearly twice as many as 20 years ago. "Many people come to us on their evenings off because English is demanded of them in their jobs," said Rainer Ziegeler, head of the Berlitz language school's north Germany section.

Firms such as Daimler Chrysler conduct many of their everyday management meetings in English, even though most of the people attending them are Germans. The national airline, Lufthansa, has adopted English as the standard language and says that 90 per cent of its employees have a reasonable standard of conversational English.

And even small-business people need a working knowledge of the language, according to Karl Bosshard, a personnel consultant working in Hamburg. "Worldwide trade is being dealt with more and more on the internet and you cannot trade without English," he said.

Outside the net, even the traditional trade congresses and conferences in Germany are conducted to an increasing extent in English, and workers in the conference industry are often offered free courses in the language.

Four years ago, in timely preparation for Germany's Expo 2000 that will open on June 1, Ralph Jarrett, Hanover's director of tourism, was urging staff in the hotel and catering business to ensure "that at least their English is adequate and also to learn something about foreign mentalities". And 22,000 policemen in the area have been taking English courses.

A spokesperson for the Academy of Secretaries said: "English is now more important than shorthand. Many personnel bosses only take on women who speak English."

Mr Bosshard pointed out that a couple of sentences of broken school English is no longer enough to keep up with new developments.

"I would recommend that anyone who does not have reasonable business English should take a course urgently. Those who cannot speak English in the next five to ten years will be threatened with unemployment," he said.

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