New German Language Policies

These days new provisions on language policy have been enacted in Germany, which is a good example for diversity. Although I use to be very thrifty to write too positive things about my own country, I feel, however, that these two examples are absolutely positive:

First, the Sorbian language in East Germany: The Sorbians are a Slavic minority in Saxonia/Brandenburg, around Bautzen and Cottbus, with approx. 50-60.000 People altogether. In Brandenburg, the Landtag (regional parliament) decided now a new version of the relevant minority law. Sorbians will be able in the future to write in their language to authorities, and the language of Lower Sorbian in kindergartens and schools will be enhanced. Lower Sorbian (closer to Polish) thus shall be protected of being extinguished in the course of time (while Upper Sorbian, closer to Czech, is spoken by more people, south of Cottbus). However, three local Administrations are still in yesterday’s dimensions: Forst, Lübben, Senftenberg. They fear the expenses on their local budget if they would have to implement a second language. So, there must be hope that mere budgetary concerns will not overcome legitimate diversity considerations in favour of a very interesting minority.

Second, French in the German Region of Saarland, with its capital Saarbrücken. The Grand Coalition of CDU and SPD just have presented their „Strategy on French“ („Frankreich-Strategie“). Within one generation, French shall be the second colloquial language. Saarland belonged, until a referendum in 1957, to France, and borders France and Luxemburg. It is among the smallest German federal states with approx. one million of citizens. The strategy includes, among others, French courses in kindergartens and elementary schools. With this, Saarland wants to obtain more sole competences among the German regions – which makes a lot of sense in a two-way street between France and Germany.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka