German as a Foreign Language in Lebanon?

We might find this hard to accept or even believe, that a country such as Lebanon can soon become a polylingual republic. Having English – the most-spoken international language – as a foreign language to be taught across country at all educational levels is particularly a must, because it is the golden key to the western world and a silver key to the rest of the planet; and luckily it has already been established and is currently considered mandatory. However, given historical events, the French language is also majorly taught within the Lebanese educational system, mainly due to the relationship established between the Lebanese and French government during and after the French Mandate period. But what are the odds of the Lebanese ministry of education adopting a third foreign language that would easily benefit the Lebanese citizens in achieving higher education and better career paths in Mid-Europe?

During a public event held at Station, Jisr El Waati – Beirut on the 17th of November; funded by Goethe – German Language Institute – the light was shed on of the PASCH programme, in which Goethe Institute provides schools with proper and modern teaching tools and proficient instructors to add the language to the curriculum. And to prove its success so far, a group of students from the Public Secondary School for Girls- Saida (PSSG-Saida) who took the liberty of volunteering to learn the German language intensively within only six week during the summer and achieving proficiency in level A2. These girls, however, not only managed to learn to speak the language fluently with a proper accent, but they also managed to translate a legendary Arabic song and sing it live on stage in German proceeded by a small theatrical act in both Arabic and German.

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This event was not only made to acknowledge the participation and success of the girls from the Public Secondary School for Girls- Saida, but also to emphasize the existence of the PASCH programme, and Goethe’s intentions to introduce the German language to more schools and universities across Lebanon. Therefore, head of the language department – Frau Sabine Haupt was glad to answer some of my questions regarding this particular event. The questions asked and answered are as follows:

  1. How do you plan on establishing the German language as a second or third foreign language in the Lebanese curriculum?

As a start, we do not plan on establishing the language nationally, however, we intend to support schools that request our assistance in introducing the language to their curriculum by providing them with highly proficient German teachers. The PASCH programme started up five years ago, and this is what today’s event is all about. And together with the Ministry of Education we were able to identify three schools that wish to provide students with German as a second foreign language. Thanks to Mr. Fadi Yarak – Director General of the Ministry of Education who will be giving a speech later on tonight.

  1. Is it in any way difficult for PASCH and the Ministry of Education to locate more schools and/or universities interested in having the language as necessity in their curriculum?

The problem in Lebanon is that German as a subject of study was abolished about 70 years ago, therefore, there is no possibility for anyone to major in teaching the language at a university. So, together with the Ministry, we tried to train teachers with pedagogic and German methodologies to be fully capable of teaching the language in the three chosen schools starting grade 7. The students will be provided with modern multimedia-friendly teaching, learning, and cultural studies materials. Therefore, the first graduation of students holding German as a foreign language will be held next year, 2017.

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  1. Do you intend to broaden the horizon of the German language in the Lebanese curriculum for it to be as mandatory as English and/or French?

I think that English is always the main foreign language, and however given the basis of foreign language in Lebanon being French. Therefore, there may not be a lot of aspiration for German to be introduced as a third foreign language unless you attend one of the German schools in Lebanon.

Also, because it was successful to establish the language in three schools, I have received more requests from schools to introduce the language into their curriculum. However, the problem at hand is that we do not have enough certified German Language teachers in Lebanon. And so, during the past couple of years, I attempted to work with universities into providing a proper academic subject, and so far, the first university to attain the subject of teaching German is the Lebanese German University (LGU), of which started this programme in the fall of 2016 with a real proper teaching syllabus with a certified degree from the Ministry of Education. However, students attending this programme will be graduating in at least three years and they will begin their careers with kindergarten levels and work their way up as the language becomes part of the curriculum for higher grades.

  1. How can Goethe and PASCH enlighten more citizens and educational facilities into believing that the German language is not only a luxury but it also provides better future opportunities?

So far, a large number of parents and educational institutes request our assistance and support on a daily basis in providing their children and students with proper German language education. The schools also so a chance for their students because Germany has a very well established academic systems, due to the high fees of having students study abroad in Germany because it is a pre-requisite to study and work in Germany. The least required level is B1 for attaining a student visa and B2 for specific subjects of study.

However, the problem we are facing at Goethe institute is that most of the people enrolled in our classes are either university students or employees who can only manage small amounts of time to be dedicated to learning the language and mostly at night after-hours. Most of the enrolled students are mostly interested in maintaining undergraduate and higher education in Germany, or find lots of career opportunities that are unavailable in Lebanon.

  1. Should this approach to teaching German in multiple levels, and having it introduced to the educational system, open up more opportunities for Lebanese citizens to study and work in Germany?

Yes, we have a labor market that is asking for it, especially in the fields of science and technology, engineering and medicine. About most of the students in Lebanon are actually interested in attaining higher education in the fields of science, engineering and medicine.

After the interview was conducted with Frau Haupt, speeches regarding the subject were given in order by the Director of Goethe Institute – Herr Mani Pournaghi, the Head of the Language Department of Goethe Institute – Frau Sabine Haupt, the Cultural Attaché of the German Embassy in Lebanon – Herr Hans-Peter Hofmann, and the Director General of the Lebanese Ministry of Education – Mr. Fadi Yarak. Proceeded by the spectacular performance accomplished by the girls of PSSG-Saida.

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It should be needless to say, that the German labor market is always opening up opportunities for foreign graduates in the fields of science, engineering and medicine; and it is an amazing chance for seekers of higher education and better career paths given that Germany holds some of the top rated educational facilities and universities, and one of the best tech industries and health institutes worldwide. Also, given the high rates of unemployment in Lebanon of which holds a high rate of educated persons mostly in the fields of science and engineering due to the lack of flourishing of these industries, locally; the chance to learn the German language and be part of the culture will render nothing but life opportunities.

Therefore, congratulations, Lebanon! The first step of achieving a student exchange partnership with the German republic has been achieved. It is only time until the two cultures become entwined and more chances will be given to those seeking them.

So, all you students and graduates out there seeking good living standards, here’s your chance to improve.

Guest Blog Author: Jane El-Youssef

Useful Resources:

PASCH Programme : http://www.goethe.de/ins/lb/bei/lhr/pas/en7408732.htm

German Courses: https://www.goethe.de/ins/de/en/kur.html

Promoting German: http://www.goethe.de/ins/lb/bei/lhr/wer/en6251735.htm

Cultural relations and education policy forum: http://www.beirut.diplo.de/Vertretung/beirut/en/06__culture__and__education/AKBP-Forum-2016-en.html

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