Learning German still important in Europe

GERMAN LANGUAGE experts and teachers from across Europe met at the University of Economics (EUBA) in Bratislava for a conference focused on the importance of the German language.

GERMAN LANGUAGE experts and teachers from across Europe met at the University of Economics (EUBA) in Bratislava for a conference focused on the importance of the German language.

By holding the conference only a few weeks after Slovakia's accession to the Schengen Zone, the hosting university hoped to contribute to the idea of Europe without borders in the field of science, education and economy. The conference, titled "German as a Technical Language (odborný jazyk, Fachsprache) in the Border Regions", took place on February 7-8, 2008.

According to the EUBA press report, 66 experts in the field of German studies from German-speaking countries and their neighbours (Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, France and Belgium) took part in the conference to share their views on the development of German as a technical language, especially in the field of economy.

As well as universities, publishing houses, euro-regions, companies and German-speaking cultural institutions were represented at the conference. The topics ranged from the issue of cultural and linguistic differences in German as a technical language in economy, tourism and intercultural communication to the challenges facing euro-regions and trans-border language projects.

Rudolf Sivák, rector of the University of Economics, said he appreciated that the university's Institute of Languages had organised the conference at EUBA. Half of the more than 40 foreign universities EUBA has signed international agreements with are German-speaking, he said. In addition, EUBA was the first Slovak university to open a double-diploma study programme taught in German - Financial Management.

The conference was supported by the ambassadors of Germany, Austria and Switzerland in Slovakia, as well as by First Lady Silvia Gašparovičová and her foundation Slovenská nadácia Silvie Gašparovičovej - Vzdelanie a zdravie pre všetkých (The Slovak Foundation of Silvia Gašparovičová - Education and Health for All).

At the conference opening Gašparovičová said that the region of Bratislava was historically connected with the German language and that bilingualism, or even multilingualism, was natural for most of its population. She believes that there is an opportunity for closer relationships between Slovakia and German-speaking countries, since German is learned by more than 63 percent of Slovak grammar school students and by a quarter of primary school students.

In his speech, the Swiss ambassador to Slovakia, Josef Aregger, said that the future of Europe is in multilingualism. In Switzerland, everybody speaks more than one language and the Swiss example shows that multilingualism widens the country's horizons and contributes to good economic performance, he said.

According to information from Goethe Institute in Bratislava, German is the mother tongue of almost 100 million Europeans. German is the second most important language in the EU after English, since every third EU inhabitant speaks it. In Slovakia, one of the countries bordering a German-speaking region, German plays an even more important role as a business language, the institute stated.

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