Cultural Diplomacy

The Goethe-Institut's Soft Power

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s Goethe-Institut is an important tool for enhancing the country’s image and reputation abroad.

  • Facts


    • The Goethe-Institut was founded in 1951.
    • It’s best known for language teaching but also organizes cultural programs and events.
    • In Germany, it has recently come under fire for hiring teachers as freelancers.
  • Audio


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Kairo – Am Tahrir-Platz –  Goethe-Institut
Goethe-Institut in Cairo. Source: DPA

In a world threatened by the twin specters of populism and terrorism, exporting democratic values through cultural diplomacy is arguably more important now than ever before.

In its bid to do just that, Germany’s Goethe-Institut, like the British Council or the Institut Français, has long functioned as much more than just a federally funded language school.

Established in 1951 to help foreign teachers in Germany learn the language, it has grown over the past 66 years into its special role as a kind of cultural calling card for the “new” Germany: smart, fiercely democratic and historically hyper-aware.

The cutting edge cool of the institution’s cultural programming can be traced directly back to Germany in the late 1960s, when a new era of left-wing political protest and avant-garde art and music helped impact an enormous cultural shift.

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