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Anglos, Diphthongs & Perfect Snogging: Saving the German A-level
This piece was written for The Guardian in August 2012, after A-level results showed the number of UK students taking German had declined to below 5,000 for the first time. There were also significant drops in French and other modern languages. In 1958, with the memory of the War still strong, the British film industry made a romantic comedy to rehabilitate the image of young Germans. The film starred Hardy Kruger as the eponymous Bachelor of Hearts, coming to study at Cambridge. His love interest, taking a German degree, was Sylvia Syms; the nation's favourite girl next door, with an A-grade German A-level. If war-wearied Brits saw the value of learning it 60 years ago, how have we come to the current state of affairs? Fewer than 5,000 UK students took the A-level this year. When I got my own A at A-level German in 1986, West Berlin was regarded as a dopey hangout for draft-dodging hippies. Unless you were planning a Nick Clegg-style Eurocrat career, you didn't need it. In my