What sorts of languages are we leaving behind when dealing with business? Wolfgang
Herrman, President of Munich Technical University (TUM), is accused of abandoning the German
language by creating classes strictly for English speakers. “English is the lingua franca in academic and of
the economy,” Hermann explains, “[it] would send a “strong signal” to the business world.”
Hermann isn’t wrong. There are plenty of English related works in academia and in the world’s economy, but that doesn’t mean that TUM should use English in 30 of its 99 master’s level courses.
Don’t get me wrong, English can be great to learn for business or traveling. I once spoke with a Spanish
born man who lived in Germany. With English as a third language, my first question was why he chose to
learn English. His response, “I like to travel, and English is a universal language.”
According to David Crystal, a writer for the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language and English
as a Global Language, current estimates suggest that 1.5 billion use English as a first, second, or foreign language– that’s one in four of the world’s population.
If we look back at my previous article, Which Language Will Dominant Next?, the article dealt with
whether English language would still stay as dominant as it is now. Several studies suggested that it
would not, and in fact by 2050 French would once again by the lingua franca.
In response to what the Munich university is doing, Johannes Singhammer, a member of the German Parliament, wrote to Mr. Herrmann to accuse TUM of turning its back on the national tongue. “Abandoning German as an academic language poses the risk of economic disadvantages…Businesses again and again point to the relationship between knowledge of the German language and the purchase of German products.”
If language dies, culture will be lost. In the Micmac language, for example, trees are named after the
sounds they make in the wind. The names change as the sounds change. Not only would that piece of
history be lost whilst losing the language, but a great insight on whether chemical or climate changes
have occurred in that region.
Maybe I’m over-reacting just a bit. About 100 million people are native German speakers. German is also
the 3rd most popular language taught worldwide, according to the Indiana AATG, so the language isn’t
going anywhere anytime soon.
German won’t be lost within the foreseeable future, but like the Micmac’s language thriving on different
sounds to name different trees, business thrives when others understand the language that the product
is native to. It can open a person’s eyes to the culture and language that it’s from. They can get an idea
of what it’s like. If everything was done and made in English, we’d never be able to understand and
appreciate German products as the German’s do?