[lg policy] Germany to promote `language of ideas"

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 26 16:51:14 UTC 2010

Germany to promote `language of ideas"

Germany's foreign minister Guido Westerwelle drew remarks when he
insisted on speaking German to a British reporter just after his
election four months ago. Guido Westerwelle is launching a worldwide
campaign to promote his mother tongue as "the language at the heart of
Europe." Westerwelle said Thursday that the campaign, called "Language
of Ideas," is meant to inspire young people to learn German. (AP
Photo/dapd/Herbert Knosowski) (Herbert Knosowski - AP)

The Associated Press
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 11:20 AM

BERLIN -- Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Well, you should, at least according
to Germany's foreign minister. Guido Westerwelle drew plenty of
sarcastic remarks when he insisted on speaking German to a British
reporter just after his election to parliament four months ago. Now,
he's making it his official mission to promote his mother tongue.
"German is the language at the heart of Europe," Westerwelle said in a
somewhat poetic statement Thursday at the outset of his new global
campaign for the so-called "Language of Ideas," and he came up with
reasons to learn German.  "It is the key to more than 350 German
universities and colleges, to Europe's largest economy," Westerwelle
said. "It grants access to German literature, music, philosophy, and
science, to the wealth of great European cultural traditions and, not
least, it is the key to realizing one's own goals and ideas."

Europe counts about 101 million native German speakers, according to
the Foreign Ministry, and some 14.5 million people outside the country
are studying the language.
That number is down, however, from about 17 million only three years
ago, and Berlin is noting, with some alarm, the increasing importance
of English as well as efforts by Spain and China to promote their
respective languages.  The new campaign aims to combine and highlight
the multitude of existing language teaching and cultural projects -
without actually spending more than the euro300 million ($406 million)
provided by the government in 2009.

They want to inspire young people worldwide to take up German and "to
motivate decision makers in politics, education, business, and the
media within Germany and outside to promote German as a foreign
language," the ministry said in a statement. Westerwelle has stressed
the beauty of German repeatedly ever since a somewhat notorious press
conference in late September, when a BBC reporter asked him if,
possibly, the foreign minister to be would answer a question in
English. Westerwelle, who can speak English, rebuffed the request
saying: "Just like it goes without saying that English is spoken in
Great Britain it is customary to speak German in Germany."

He offered to meet the reporter for tea and speak English there but
added that "this is Germany." A few days later he said only German
should be used at official events in Germany as "the German language
is very beautiful."  Germany, like France, has seen occasional efforts
to ban English language imports such as "rent-a-bike," "ticket
counter," or "coffee shop."  Earlier this month, Deutsche Bahn, the
national railway - which routinely provides announcements in German
and in a form of almost indecipherable English - pledged to weed out
some of its borrowed vocabulary such as "kiss & ride" and
"call-a-bike" after Ernst Hinsken, a Bavarian member of Germany's
parliament, complained.
Deutsche Bahn told Hinsken in a letter quoted by German media that the
company recognizes the need to cut down on the use of anglicisms.

While most Germans study English in school and often resort to the
global language, some foreigners seem to go along with Westerwelle's
take on German. "I like German. It is amazing, it is so rational and
it makes so much sense," said Inara Vaz from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who
has been studying German in Berlin for a year. She said she is still
struggling, not so much with grammar, but with expanding her
vocabulary. Nonetheless, it seems to be worth her while. "It is a
beautiful language, it is deeper than any other language I know," she
said, a flattering declaration considering she speaks not only
Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, but English, too.


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