The Germans do indeed have a problem here

One of Germany’s most prominent politcians has launched an oustpoken attack on the increasing use of the English language in every day life, and called for a crackdown.

“Co-existence can only work in Germany if we all speak German,” Jens Spahn, seen by many as a potential successor to Angela Merkel, said. “We can and should expect this from every immigrant.”

Mr Spahn, currently junior finance minister, reserved his greatest anger for the growing number of people who work in the German capital despite speaking no German.

“It drives me up the wall the way waiters in Berlin restaurants only speak English,” he told Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper.

Comparing Germans’ often relaxed attitude to the fierce French protectiveness of their language, he added: “You would never find this kind of lunacy in Paris.”

The thing being that the very idea of “Germany” is based on language. Hitler took it all a little far with that talk of “Volk” but there really was a strong 19th century movement that people of the same language were the natural national unit. As with Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and so on. Germany rather became Germany, with a lot of help from Prussian designs, as a result of that underlying idea.

To find that language isn’t quite working as the binding force must hurt to some extent therefore.

33 thoughts on “The Germans do indeed have a problem here”

  1. How’s he feel bout people speaking not English but Arabic instead of German?

    His boss seems ok with that

  2. This comes back to the age old problem of international cities (which Berlin is, or at least the heart of it is), which attracts waifs and strays from all over the world who tend to speak their own language fluently, English adequately and have a little German.

    The Germans have this annoying habit of trying to make us foreigners feel at ease, by switching to another language (often English, but French and Spanish also) as soon as they hear a foreigner struggling with German.

    This has the unfortunate side effect of making English (which most foreigners in Germany speak to some degree) the lingua franca.

    It does also mean that those of us who turn up in German with a little conversational German that they would actually like to improve, don’t get much chance as the “helpful” Germans insist on speaking often faultless English at us.

    What are we to do?

  3. English is the de facto standard language, learn all the obscure local languages you like but in the end they will be historical oddities spoken only by language fanatics and the lunatic fringe of Nationalist movements

  4. If a country has an open door policy and if it believes in freedom.of movement within the EU as much as Germany does then it must accept the social consequemcs that follow. Intra-EU migrants will natualy look for a common language to bind them -it would be racist to try to prevent that. And immigrants from the Middle East will.naturally have a greater command of English than French or German. As Berlin and other big cities provide the economic opportunities to use thay skill… the results for Germany are fairly inevitable.

  5. Same with Spanish in the southwest United States. They get immigrants from right across Latin America: some speak their own indigenous languages, but they all speak at least some Spanish. For those who don’t, it’s even easier to learn than English.

  6. Johannes L Pretorius

    My DK guidebook to France explains that during the reign of Louis 14th more than 235 languages were spoken in France. It was Napoleon that started standardizing the criminal code and the language. So you take away that a Monarch leaves you alone, provided you pay taxes, but a democratic state wants to force the minorities to follow the will of the majority.

  7. There’s a German saying: “He’s so stupid, he can’t even speak English”.

    When the Deutschlandlied (“Deutschland uber alles”) was written (1841), there was no such thing as ‘Germany’, just a political ambition to unite all the German-speaking peoples of Europe: “from the Meuse to the Neman; from the Adige to the Belt” – which would include the Netherlands, Poland and the German-speaking north of Italy.

  8. Slightly but not wholly OT, maybe this is why Germans are happier in the EU than Brits (apart from the obvious economic benefits). We have county boundaries which have existed centuries longer than their whole country – for them, being shunted from one rough approximation of a country to another is no big deal.

  9. Germans complain about other German’s German ie Prussian vs Schwabian and they all laugh at the Swiss version. They have also allowed enclaves of Turks, speaking very little German persist since the sixties, because they are not echt Deutsch. There’s a lot of doublethink in the culture.

  10. Good heavens, invite a million foreigners into your country from Asia, Africa and the Middle East and no one seems to have realised they wouldn’t speak German. Astonished.

  11. We’re told the City will up sticks and shift to Frankfurt post Brexit.

    One would think that if this happened, English would probably need to become the main language of Frankfurt, to meet the needs of the influx of bankers moving across. Are the Germans willing and able to accommodate this?

  12. People of the same ethny are the only natural national unit. That’s what a nation is.

    This is just nonsense. Whether the Skinny speaks pidgin German or pidgin English as he beats and rapes you makes no difference, he will always just be a Somalian, an alien to any European nation.

  13. “bloke in france
    August 14, 2017 at 9:24 am
    It could be worse. Under de Gaulle French schoolchildren weren’t allowed to be left handed.”

    When my mum was at school in 1960’s Birmingham, she used to get a whack on the knuckles from a ruler if Teach spotted her writing with her left hand.

  14. It annoys me when I pass by Hispanic laborers speaking Spanish here in the U.S.

    If you are going to live here, learn the damn language. Because, if you don’t, you will ALWAYS BE A LABORER.

  15. We’re told the City will up sticks and shift to Frankfurt post Brexit.

    I seem to vaguely recall that the Germans thought that a large portion of the City’s finance bods would move to Frankfurt when the Eurobond market was being established.

    Nope. They stayed in London and traded it all electronically with the guys (including Deutsche Bank) who were also based in London.

    Who the hell wants to move to Frankfurt? Even the Germans don’t want to go there.

  16. Because, if you don’t, you will ALWAYS BE A LABORER

    Would they learn traditional English like “Labourer” or simplified English (i.e. American)?

    🙂

  17. Interested:
    ” why Germans are happier in the EU than Brits”#
    i see it as more why Germans naturally happier with the idea ‘ever closer union’. It conforms to a sense of historical progress. Original german Unification is seen as the natural course of events, manifest destiny if you like. ditto re-unification. Yes they acknowlege it went wrong in ww1 and 2 but democracy and liberalism were the missing ingredients and anyway they’ve promised their neighbours they’ll keep the nationalistic noise down in future.
    In UK well yes there’s a union but there was or is no grand celebration of the process of unification. It kind of just happened. Not that it was without issues and the Irish question shows that language ain’t anything like enough to keep all on board happily.
    Same with italy. Unification is seen as a natural thing in the progression of history.
    France -well if it hadn’t been for perfidious Albion this continent would have been united for 200 years.
    The real eye opener is switzerland. They’ve been united for donkey’s years, have multilingual populace, have a strong civic, regional and national identities. In many ways there a model for what a united states of Europe should look like and yet they have absolutely zero inclination of putting themselves under European Political institutions.

  18. Would they learn traditional English like “Labourer” or simplified English (i.e. American)?

    FFS this thread is now doomed to be 178 entries long!

  19. for them, being shunted from one rough approximation of a country to another is no big deal

    Alsace changed ‘nationality’ 4 times between 1869 and 1946. Frei Elsass!

    It’s another part of British exceptionalism within the EU. When a Brit thinks of ‘borders’, his concept is of a division set by nature and inherently difficult to cross. When a continental European thinks of ‘borders’, they imagine an arbitrary line drawn on a map by politicians that is inherently porous.

  20. My wife, who gets more regular updates from them than we do, has reported that our German friends (Dortmund-ish) went on holiday in Bavaria, and were having to speak English to be understood.

    Maybe the problem is harder than Herr Spahn thinks?

  21. I do not wish to offend the spell checker.

    I wonder . . . do you guys get a traditional English or simplified English, ‘Merican, spell checker? Does your spell checker like labor or labour? Mine likes labor.

  22. John Square
    I started school in ’56 and no one so much as remarked on my left handedness. My parents told me this wasn’t always the case, but I am surprised the practice continued into the sixties. When I was an apprentice though, I was obliged to hold the welding torch in my right hand as everybody has to weld in the same direction, i.e. “leftwards”.

  23. They come in flavours, US and UK certainly, I’ve seen Oz and NZ (slightly different) and wouldn’t surprise me if Canadian English had one again

  24. Gamecock
    Spellcheckers work for all flavours… This blog (or is it my computer) as I type has an English spellchecker.

  25. @Ecksy:

    “Don’t go there anyway.”

    That is entirely your choice. It’s been 70+ years since people were forced to go to Germany 🙂

    There are some nice places though, particularly Berlin for those of us interested in WW2 and Cold War history.

    @NielsR:
    Complete the sentence:

    “Co-existence can only work in the EU if we all speak…”

    …quietly so the we don’t wake Jean-Claude Juncker from his drunken stupor.

  26. @John Square, August 14, 2017 at 11:09 am

    “bloke in france, August 14, 2017 at 9:24 am
    It could be worse. Under de Gaulle French schoolchildren weren’t allowed to be left handed.”

    When my mum was at school in 1960’s Birmingham, she used to get a whack on the knuckles from a ruler if Teach spotted her writing with her left hand.

    Same with my brother in 1960s and mother in 1940s NI.

    .
    Saw this today: Office Outlook “back to school” offers include Left Handed Rulers, Pens, Geometry sets.

    WTF is a Left Handed Ruler?

  27. Bloke in North Dorset

    “The Germans have this annoying habit of trying to make us foreigners feel at ease, by switching to another language (often English, but French and Spanish also) as soon as they hear a foreigner struggling with German.”

    That is so true. When I was serving in Germany in the early 80s those who made an effort to learn a bit of German complained they switched to English too quickly so you couldn’t practice. Those who didn’t make an effort always complained that Germans didn’t speak English.

  28. “There are some nice places though, particularly Berlin for those of us interested in WW2 and Cold War history.”

    Which left many Soviet soldiers wondering out loud why the Germans invaded the squalid East.

    “They have all this! We have nothing!”

    Stalin is reputed to have not allowed soldiers back from the West, as he didn’t want them telling stories about the wealth, compared to the Workers Paradise.

  29. “The Germans do indeed have a problem here” wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that germany has been the problem in europe since 1870 and the franco-prussian war , followed by ww1 and ww2. Their latest blithering idiocy of inviting millions of low iq, murdering rapists in is there latest attempt to destroy europe and themselves. Destroying greece via the eurozone was just a sideshow. Honestly whenever anyone tells me how clever germans are i remind them of germany’s suicidal death wish over the last 100years. I wouldn’t mind but they have to inflict their suicidal tendencies on the rest of us.

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