On 10 November 2015, the Think German Network initiative (including our very own NWGN) was launched in the grand setting of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, hosted by the Permanent Under-Secretary at the FCO, Sir Simon McDonald KCMG, and the German Ambassador, Dr Peter Ammon. Network members, politicians from the UK and Germany, students of German, representatives from business and commerce, diplomats and other Germanophiles were all in attendance.
The art historian and museum director Neil MacGregor (whose exhibition ‘Germany: Memories of a Nation’ took place at the British Museum with an accompanying series on BBC Radio 4) gave the opening speech, after which the regional networks gave us a flavour of how they are promoting German in their area. Dr Rebecca Braun represented the NWGN, mentioning our exhibition ‘Germans in Manchester’ and our outreach work with local schools.
Of course, the current problems facing the German language in the UK, not least of all the falling number of students, were also a topic of conversation. Yet seeing such interest and enthusiasm for all things German and meeting such hard-working and engaged people gave everyone cause to be optimistic for the future.
One of our student representatives, Matthew Shaw (University of Lancaster) had this to say:
“The Think German Network brings together those with a shared enthusiasm for the language and culture of German speaking societies, with the aim of promotion and outreach. It was a privilege to be invited to London on 10th November, and to engage with an initiative dedicated to demonstrating the usefulness of the skills we acquire, in serving to remind us that language is the bridge leading to cultural understanding and that the greatest learning experiences occur upon leaving the classroom.
For language learning is an endeavour which begins in confinement, ultimately progressing to direct involvement, enactment and an ability to effect huge change. The speakers and participants themselves were fantastic examples of individuals whose professional and social lives have been enhanced dramatically by an unwavering enthusiasm for all things German. In what is now the final year of my studies, a time when soon-to-be graduates are treading the paths of opportunity in the hope of discovering what lies ahead, The Think German Network really is helping to shed light on what could be in the future, as a result of what is in the present.”