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Vogts pulls on a German shirt

SCOTLAND football manager Berti Vogts has been roped in to help halt the decline of German in secondary schools - no doubt hoping he will bring more success to this venture than to his day job.

The move to enlist the services of the country's best-known German comes as the latest figures confirm that the downward slide in the popularity of the language is continuing.

Figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority show that there were 14,122 Standard grade presentations for German this year, 4 per cent down on last year. The Higher numbers, at 1,933, were 13 per cent down.

Presentations in French were just 3 per cent down at Standard grade but up by 1.9 per cent at Higher. The only bright spot was the Advanced Higher where both languages fared well this year - 18 per cent more taking German and 10 per cent French.

Herr Vogts launched the initiative at St Andrews University, which was hosting its first annual German recitation contest. More than 100 children from 17 schools took part.

Annette Zimmermann, the event organiser and senior native language tutor at the university, said: "More than 100 million people around the world speak German and we feel very honoured that one of them, Berti Vogts, has made time in his busy schedule to promote the German language and to present the prizes. What could be better than to combine German and football when the key to both is passion."

Herr Vogts said: "Of course, it is convenient to get by with English anywhere in the world. But, as a German, I am delighted to see that Scottish pupils realise the importance of German and take up the subject despite English being a world language."

The competition is part of a drive by the university's German department to counter the decline in foreign languages in schools.

It has organised a series of outreach initiatives aimed at maintaining interest in the subject, something which it believes is under threat due, in part, to competition from more recently introduced subjects such as psychology and drama.

Earlier this year students of German at St Andrews performed a free play for Fife school pupils, in the hope that this will encourage them to consider studying languages at university.

Helen Chambers, chair of the German department, said: "The study of German is an important key to career opportunities and to social and cultural contact for young Europeans.

"We want Scottish schoolchildren to have the same opportunities as their European neighbours, 50 per cent of whom speak German. The competition is a chance to find out that speaking German can be fun."

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