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LN: Czechs’ interest in German language falling, demand rising

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Prague, Sept 23 (CTK) – The interest in the German language was decreasing in the Czech Republic in the past years, but the situation has improved of late since demand for this knowledge is high, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes Wednesday.

It recalls that in the past almost everyone could speak German in the country.

The Czech Lands were part of the Habsburg monarchy, where German was the official language, for centuries until 1918 when Czechoslovakia was established. There was a large German minority in the new country until the end of WWII in May 1945 when most ethnic Germans were transferred from it.

The paper writes that German knowledge is important for Czechs for many reasons.

The Czech Republic borders on two German-speaking countries, Germany and Austria.

German is a mother tongue for 90 million EU citizens. About 200 million people in the world command German, which is one of the ten mostly used languages globally.

In the Czech Republic with a population of 10.5 million, some 8000 “German-speaking” firms offer 120,000 jobs, while 90 percent of them seek German-speaking staff.

In addition, more than two million Germans and Austrians annually visit the Czech Republic.

LN writes that there are 19 independent higher-education institutions teaching German in the Czech Republic, the major ones are at the universities in Prague, Brno and Olomouc, north Moravia.

Czech technical universities have registered a high demand for their graduates who can speak German.

The universities in the borderland, in Usti nad Labem, Liberec (both north Bohemia) and Plzen (west Bohemia), are especially interested in German studies, LN writes.

After the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, English started dominating at all Czech schools, while German was gradually dwarfed, LN says

While in 2005, 170,000 children were learning German at primary schools, seven years later it was merely about 100,000.

Statistics of the Education Ministry prove a decreasing number of students learning German and the falling interest is also apparent at universities, Professor Ingeborg Fialova, former head of the German Studies Institute at the Palacky University in Olomouc, north Moravia, told LN.

The number of students (annually) applying for German studies has been gradually dropping from 800 at the beginning of the 1990s to 150 in the past few years, said Marie Vachkova, from the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague.

Current students are more pragmatical and they are more focused on a practical use of their knowledge than on theoretical subjects, such as linguistics, Vachkova added.

Regional circumstances also play the role in students’ interest in German, LN writes.

The University of West Bohemia in Plzen, situated near the border with Germany, has not registered any decrease in the number of students of German.

Mainly students from West and South Bohemia regions, bordering on Germany and Austria, choose German studies as a traditional and advantageous field in their regions, Andrea Koenigsmarkova, head of the Institute of Germanic and Slavic studies in Plzen, told MfD.

The Plzen University is even considering extending the offer of interdisciplinary studies of German language combined with Bavarian life and institutions or culture, in cooperation with the German university in Regensburg, LN writes.

In Mlada Boleslav, central Bohemia, the German Volkswagen (VW) concern, which owns the local Skoda car maker, is running the Skoda Auto College. In the past, 100 percent of its graduates commanded the German language and now it is 80 percent, the college’s vice-rector, Lenka Stejskalova told LN, adding that the graduates often find jobs in Audi, VW and other German firms.

“German cannot be forgotten or put aside in our country since it used to be the second, and for a long time the first, mother tongue there. We must command German to be able to understand history and culture of our own country,” Fialova told LN.

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