Half a million more foreigners are learning German worldwide than five years ago with 15.4 million taking up courses in schools, universities and Goethe Institutes, a German Foreign Office survey said on Tuesday. The figures are still below the 20 million recorded in 2000. "The downward trend has stopped," Foreign Office Minister Maria Boehmer said.
Neighbouring Poland has the greatest interest in German with 2.3 million people learning the language while there are significantly more German students in Turkey, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, nations which have high migration to Europe's economic heartbeat. Greece, often at loggerheads with Germany over its economic crisis, has also seen an increase in those learning German alongside Portugal. The number of German students in Russia and other countries from the former Soviet Union has again fallen, however. In Russia the figure stands at 1.55 million, down by 800,000. Johannes Ebert, secretary general of the Goethe Institute which promotes the study of German abroad, said the decline in Russia was due to the overall fall in the population there and changes in the educational system. "This has nothing to do with the political situation," he said.
The figures in the survey do not include individual or private German learning. Native German speakers number more than 90 million.