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Herlinde Koelbl: Picturing German Learners

Herlinde KoelblCopyright: Herlinde Koelbl
German learners from 18 different countries posed for the photographer (Photo: Herlinde Koelbl)

27 September 2013

Understanding one’s partner in their mother tongue, revving up an acting career, escaping the economic crisis or challenging one’s own talent for languages: there are many reasons to learn German. We present eighteen encounters with the German language.

There’s a German boom going on. The Goethe-Instituts worldwide are recording increased demand for their language courses and exams. In the crisis-ridden countries of southern Europe, young people hope that German skills will offer them new vocational opportunities.

But there is more interest in German in other parts of the world as well: In North America and Sub-Saharan Africa the numbers of learners at the Goethe-Instituts are growing. In India, a chain of public schools even helped to introduce German at 1,000 schools, bringing up to a million Indian pupils in contact with the German language in future. In Russia a large-scale advertising campaign put a halt to the decrease in numbers of German learners and the educational objective of multilingualism was newly anchored in the national educational system.

But who are the people who find the German language so appealing? Herlinde Koelbl met and photographed 18 of them. Click on the images to see the photo series:

Herlinde Koelbl
Photo gallery: German learners photographed by Herlinde Koelbl

With an impartial eye, the photographer met, photographed and interviewed young people and adults from 18 countries who are learning German at the Goethe-Instituts in Schwäbisch Hall and Hamburg. What do they miss in Germany, what do they like about it and what aspirations to they associate with the German language? The result reveals a mobile world community in which German has an important place. The gallery spans an arc including the Imam who, after his German course, can finally communicate with his community in Hamburg without an interpreter and the dentist from Mexico who followed his heart to Germany and is amazed that cars really stop here at red lights.

The photos and impressions are contained in the new issue of the Goethe-Institut’s magazine, which focuses on learning the German language.

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