For the first time in Lebanon and under the auspices and in the presence of his Excellency Mr. Martin Huth, Ambassador of Germany to Lebanon, a round table entitled ” German: the Language of Opportunities” was organized by the Lebanese German University – LGU on Friday May 5, 2017 at its main campus in Sahel Alma. A large audience was present, including LGU Chairman of the Board of Trustees Mr. Alexander Najjar, LGU vice presidents, and representatives of a host of German institutions and other political, religious, and social figures, as well as school directors, academics, deans of faculties, and students from both LGU and schools that teach the German language.Following the Lebanese and German national anthems, LGU Vice President, Dr. Pierre El Khoury, welcomed the audience and made an overview of the most influential German-speaking scientists and artists who made history in diverse fields from science to culture. He spoke about the importance of the German language in Lebanon and the increasing involvement of Lebanese youths in the German market and the interest Lebanese students have in studying in Germany. He stressed that LGU is committed to integrating the German language in its curricula by introducing, in collaboration with Goethe Institute, a new and unique major “Teaching German as a Foreign Language”. This innovative program meets the requirements of the educational system in Lebanon and targets students who wish to expand linguistic and cultural competencies relating to the German language. He also pointed out that LGU grants scholarships to support students enrolling in the program.

In turn, the German ambassador, Mr. Martin Huth, expressed his best wishes for the new cooperation between LGU and Goethe Institute in the field of German language training. He also pointed to the dire need for qualified German language teachers in Lebanon and how important it is for LGU to fill this gap. He also stressed that German is in high demand around the world, with about 15 million students and adults actively learning the language especially in countries that share borders with Germany as they can economically benefit from speaking the German language. He added that it is easy for someone who speaks English to learn German since both languages are similar. “German, as an additional language, is the third-most important language in the European Union”. He also noted that German is a fairly common commercial language in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and to some extent, in Turkey.

Mr. Huth added that as Germany is recognized for its scientific and technological excellence and its numerous research institutes and universities, learning German certainly offers an opportunity for anyone considering going to Germany for academic acquisition or for a professional career. Apart from the economic interest it holds for its users, the German language, as Mr. Huth said, has political interest as Germany is currently active in UN peace-keeping missions, such as its participation in the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Consequently, there has been a marked interest in the German language among the Lebanese Armed Forces, in particular the Navy.

Mrs. Sabine Haupt, Head of the Language Department at Goethe Institute, expressed her great interest in Lebanon and the particular purpose of introducing the PASCH program at selected schools, with German as a second language, to support students who wish to take up university studies in Germany. She explained that three PASCH schools were established in Lebanon six years ago and nine new schools will be opened shortly. She also praised LGU for being the only university in Lebanon and the region to launch a BA in “Teaching German as a Foreign Language” in order to support universities and schools aiming to give German lessons by qualified and trained teachers.

Mrs. Bahar Sayyas, Director of the German Academic Exchange Service – DAAD Lebanon, praised the ‘achievement’ realized by LGU and Goethe Institute through the establishment of a BA in “Teaching German as a Foreign Language”. She gave an overview of DAAD, the German international agency for academic exchange that provides counseling to students wishing to study in Germany. She also spoke about the higher education system in Germany and how students could get scholarships, and the benefits they enjoy when they study in Germany. In fact, Germany ranks third in Nobel Prize laureates and is a top country for quality education in Europe. She explained what types of universities exist in Germany and the possibility for students to study in either German or English. She pointed out that academic learning is subsidized by the German government and higher education is almost free of charge. She added that academic establishments in Germany are known for their excellence in research and the close links between theory and practice. Some 19000 study programs are available and 1916 international degree programs are offered in English. All provide excellent career opportunities in a country with high living standards. She added that Germany is the third most popular country for international students after the US and the UK. She also gave the audience an idea of the requirements needed to study in German universities and conditions relating to doing research in Germany.

In turn, Mrs. Angelina Bertrand, instructor of German courses at LGU, spoke extensively about helping university students, enrolled in ‘Teaching German as a Second Language’, develop professional understanding of children’s specific learning needs and acquire competencies, techniques, and methodology of teaching as well as relevant knowledge of subject matters taught in preschool and primary classes. All this could be achieved through training on the mastery of the German language, the development of literary and linguistic skills, and the acquisition of cultural knowledge. Students would also be motivated to speak through a multifaceted learning experience by being offered a variety of situations to help them interact in German. The most important, as Bertrand pointed, is for the instructor to act as a German cultural mediator.

Following Mrs. Bertrand’s presentation, two PASCH school students who had spent one year in Germany spoke about the enjoyable experience they had. In fact, they had mastered a new language, developed new hobbies, made new friends, discovered a new culture and also met people from various cultural backgrounds. The experience, as they said, boosted their self-confidence and autonomy and opened for them new horizons.

During the conference, LGU and Goethe Institute signed a renewal of their MOU. The conference was followed by a reception which provided participants with the opportunity to get to know one another. Ambassador Huth also visited LGU facilities and met with the university administrative and academic staff.