Government of Alsace launches campaign to promote German language

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An article here in French has news on a recent campaign by the government of the Alsace region in France to try to get more students in the region to learn German. Being located right next to Germany the region already has quite a bit of German influence (the city of Strasbourg for example - that's not a French name) but in some interviews done in the video that accompanies the article you can see that most people see German as being too complicated a language and tend to find it a bit scary. In the interview that takes place in the second part of the video too one can see that another problem is that the language is still seen as the "language of the Nazis and war criminals" by many.

Nevertheless, it's 2009 and the region thinks it's time for its population to benefit from close proximity to Germany. The campaign notes that German is the mother tongue of 100 million Europeans, more than English. It's the largest economic power in Europe, the 3rd in the world, France's largest commercial partner...and also that of Alsace.

The official site promoting the language in Alsace is here, where it also gives ten reasons to learn German.

Another video from the same site says that many positions are going unfilled due to a lack of qualified people that speak German.


Anonymous said...

Guten Abend Dave !

One cannot really speak of "German influence"; most of Alsace has been merely German-speaking during nearly all of its history. (It is as if you would speak of "Celtic influence" for Ireland or Wales). The majority of Alsatians spoke a germanic (alemanic) dialect until the sixties. Do you know that Queen Elizabeth may be partly liable for the downfall of Alsatian ?
When her Coronation was broadcast worldwide, there were only TV comments in English and French (thanks to Canada !). But the French authorities were amazed when they learnt that most Alsatians had prefered to buy German TVs and to watch the comments in English ! Then, the French government decided to extend the French TV broadcast over the whole territory, including Alsace.
(by the way, there is no "government" in Alsace, only a Regional Council as everywhere in mainland France)
I studied in Alsace three years ago (at Strasbourg, and I even recognize that the photograph was taken near a tramway at Strasbourg !) and I can testify that the knowledge of German is very low. Now, the core of the problem has the same origin than in the rest of France: everything is automatically translated into French (except Franglais) and most people behave as if there were only two languages on Earth: French and Foreign (and maybe Globish).
This should be finally a chance for me as I see that some law firms are looking for German-speaking lawyers... That's what they say at least...


Matt said...

Germany is the third largest economic power in the world? Unless you're measuring by something other than nominal GDP (which seems like it would make the most sense), it's fourth. I may be misinterpreting you, though.

Anyways, I far prefer German to French, so French people learning German is pretty good news to me. Shame it's just a small region, as opposed to a state-level endeavor.

James said...

The people of Luxembourg are fluent in German/luxemburgisch/French.

Why not allow German/Alsacian/French in Alsace and Lorraine?

I don't understand.

cafaristeir said...

Sellamat James !

I'm from Lorraine. What do you mean by "why not allow ?" The simple fact is that everybody speaks French nowadays in Alsace and Lorraine. Maybe we should prohibit the teaching of English at teenagers, then they may be more interested by German...


James said...

I meant that everyone living in Alsace and Lorraine should be fluent in German, Alsacian or Lothringer Platt, and French. It could become a model European region.

I don't understand. Why should the French authorities want the people in eastern France to learn German. I thought that French and Germans use English as a "traffic language" to communicate with each other and with other Europeans. Have the French authorities in Paris changed their minds?

I also thought that most Alsacians do not bother to learn German, as they see no need to visit Germany. Germans like to travel everywhere. In contrast to the Germans, most French prefer to live, work, and play in their own country. Is this another reason why most French are not interested in learning German?

James said...


Is Lorraine becoming more bilingual, or is this only wishful thinking?

cafaristeir said...

Hi James !

First of all, the germanic dialect concerned only the northern tip of Lorraine, the rest being romance. Alsatian and most of Lorraine franconian have gotten only recently a written definite form. And variations remain. So, the teaching at school could be hardly enforceable.
Generally, people in the border area can still use French or German to communicate, but I don't get this number has increased, rather that it has somehow decreased.
For example, if you do shopping on the other side of the border, it is the seller who is expected to speak your language (so is business !) not the customer (but I did the contrary at Saarbrücken !)
That's true that the authorities (even at a local level) make beautiful speeches but do little to effectively enforce bilingualism. But, the main reason is that people themselves feel little concerned by bilingualism, and since they get all they want in a single language, they dont feel the need to learn another one.
Look at Ireland where, though the teaching of Irish has become compulsory, the percentage of people conversant in Irish has decreased since the Independence.


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