We got inspired for this post last night while watching the European Music Awards. Put on by MTV, the EMAs are held in a different European city each year. This year they were held right here in Frankfurt.
We flipped on the television and she said something about it being annoying to hear some of the English and then also hear someone translating the German over the English (this is common when international guests appear on talk shows in Germany). He said that there would be no German, for live international events the entire show is in English and left that way.
He was right. The entire thing was in English and no translation took place. She realized that this has been true for other events such as the Oscars. People in Germany are expected to be able to understand or just not watch. This would never happen in the USA. The idea of something being in another language, even Spanish, which is becoming more and more popular, would be unheard of. People in the United States aren't expected to know a language other than English.
Germany is no different than the rest of Europe when it comes to knowing multiple languages (with the exception of the UK and Ireland which might be just as bad as the US). Children begin learning English in the kindergarten and many young children do mini presentations in English during elementary school. When she worked with fifth grade students (about age 10) here in Germany, she was amazed to discover that they could follow what she said in English as long as she spoke slowly and did not get too complicated.
We don't want to go into details about the differences in the school systems, we will save that for another entry, but we do want to say that in Germany, almost everyone (especially in the younger generation) is at least decent in English and most often also is pretty good at French or Spanish. Part of the reason is because it is needed here, countries are close and if you want to travel and do business outside of Germany, Austria, or Switzerland you need to speak the other country's language (or at least the common language of English). The other reason is because in Germany it is almost expected that you can understand English.
People in Germany are overall much more exposed to languages other than German on a regular basis. At least 90% of songs on the radio are in English, many television shows are dubbed, but some are left in English with German subtitles. Before computers and the Internet became as huge as they are today, software and programs were only in English. You had to figure it out if you wanted to participate and understand. On top of that, live shows, such as the Oscars and EMAs, are left in English without any dubbing or subtitles. You either learn English or miss out.
Of course, German is the most important and common language in Germany. She respects that and will sit through countless hours of dubbed television, but sometimes it is nice to hear a program in its original language and she was happily entertained by the EMAs being in English :)