Budget supermarket Lidl have launched a new scholarship for students at Oxford University to study German.
This comes after education experts warned that the number of students learning the language in school is declining. A British Council advisor suggested this was partly due to students associating Germany with war.
The supermarket chain will fund one master’s degree for a student of Modern German whilst sponsoring competitions with cash prizes for undergraduates from next year.
Education experts have welcomed this move by Lidl and have pointed to Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with Germany to halt the decline, exemplifying the language’s future importance.
The British Council’s school’s advisor Vicky Gough suggested the decline in German students stemmed from pupils preferring to speak “exotic” languages and from learning about the First and Second World Wars.
She said: “Less and less people are taking German up and that is a big issue.
“The perception of German is that it is harder, that it is less useful and it is something for the elite. In many schools it’s only an option for the top set.
“Spanish is seen as far more cool, it’s known as the ‘Despacito effect’, all the celebrities are using it.
“I have asked students what languages they want to study, many of them say Spanish because there are so many places where you can use it or Chinese because they think it’s exotic. But the only thing they know about Germany is the war.”
It’s a huge shame because the German department at Warwick is so strong. I’ve had such a good experience with them throughout my degree
– Molly Harrabin, Final-year German Studies student
Final-year German Studies student, Molly Harrabin, said: “German is probably the third biggest language in the [Modern Languages] school. That being said, out of the ‘core’ three, it is the least popular.
“I think it is less romanticised because of the last 100 years of German history and in general everyone finds French and Spanish more attractive.
“I would definitely say it’s underrated – people generally aren’t taught German in schools or they don’t believe it has as much significance as other languages because it’s not as widely spoken. I think the Nazi past puts people off and not as many people are aware of the diverse culture that Germany has.
“It’s a huge shame because the German department at Warwick is so strong. I’ve had such a good experience with them throughout my degree.”
This year, nearly half as many students sat German A-level exams as in 2010 and 25% of state schools which in the last three years offered German GCSE no longer to so.
Last year, 7,600 students sat A-Level Spanish, which was more than double the amount that sat German exams.
Christian Härtnagel, Lidl’s UK CEO, said: “As a British supermarket with roots in Germany, we saw this opportunity as a great fit and are incredibly proud to be working with Oxford to support both undergrad and graduate students of German.”
Third-year French and German student, Daniel Goodbourn, is currently on a year abroad in Lübeck and believes German is an important skill in the job market. He said: “I think there are a lot of benefits culturally and in terms of employment.
“German businesses are such a powerhouse in Europe that it’s so essential to have native English speakers who can also speak German. Just being able to speak German in a business environment can really improve your employability.
“I think culturally as well people forget that Germany is so huge and within that there are so many different locations… If you want to tour Europe, learning German is so important.
“People say that German’s super hard and, whilst it can be at times, it’s a Germanic language like English so it’s not really as hard as people make it out to be. Plus, learning German can be a gateway to other Germanic languages.”
The number of students learning modern languages overall is down 15% at the end of 2016/2017, compared to 2010.