The U.S. is our most important partner outside of Europe. This guiding principle of German foreign policy has been in effect since the founding of the Federal Republic. The times and topics of the trans-Atlantic agenda have changed during the past 60 years, but the importance of these relations has remained.
Germany has an essential interest in framing these relations for the future. Part of that is keeping American interest in our country alive and conveying a contemporary image of Germany.
We Must React
The German language has an increasingly difficult position in U.S. classrooms. The number of German programs in U.S. schools has long been declining. We must react to that.
We have a vital interest in seeing that young people, too, form a connection to Germany and German culture. The first step to this is often taken in school, where along with language, an interest in the county is imparted.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is therefore making the U.S. a priority country in the coming years for the promotion of German as a foreign language. Now already, we have a solid network of five German schools abroad and 85 partner schools.
Through exchange programs, more than 10,000 pupils, 1,500 university students and several hundred American school and college teachers come across the Atlantic to Germany. This direct contact with the German language and culture helps shape a modern, vibrant conveyance of the German language.
Financial Means Are Limited
But we also want to reach the nearly 500,000 students who are learning German in American schools at home and have never been to Germany or Europe – for instance via modern media or “Summer Language Camps.”
At the same time, we must be realistic: The financial means at our disposal are limited, so it is all the more important that we utilize the available means both content-wise and regionally and develop new, innovative ideas.
In the process, we can count on collaboration with many outstanding German and American partners. If all parties involved pull together, we can achieve much for the German language and German-American relations.
The author is an FDP-Representative and coordinator of transatlantic cooperation in the Foreign Affairs Office.