My grandmother was German and as far as I know she spoke English, Spanish, French and Lithuanian besides her mother tongue. This family fact made me always think of Germans as quite polyglots.
However a few weeks ago I was having an interesting conversation with Gillian Kerr from Trade Horizons consulting firm (London). Back then she suddenly asked to me: Which do you think is a European country speaking not-so-good English?
I instantly replied … France. “Not at all”, she said: “Germany.” I was surprised indeed. Nonetheless, some online research I did (Quora, Duolingo) proved her to be quite right.
On the other hand, Paul Walters (Lime Tree Europe, Halifax) provided a different viewpoint in a dialogue we held.
“They do speak English”, he claimed, “but mostly prefer using German”.
However, let´s not overlook that Paul is involved in exporting and therefore the German peers he does business with must be good at handling foreign languages. As for Gillian, her firm advises foreign companies willing to invest in UK.
Wow … Who of them was right on this topic then? According to my research, it seems to be it depends a lot on the age, region, education, and interests of the person you’re talking to. Quite the same happens at any country I dare to say here.
In my grandmother’s time, English was still not the world lingua franca as it is now. But she worked at the Germany embassy in London, I recalled. A different kettle of fish by the way.
My conclusion: Do Germans speak good English? It depends …
What do you think? Have you had a good experience with Germans speaking English or do you believe translators will come in handy even in Germany? We´d love to hear your say about this issue.
Maximo J. Palomares / Founder