Why can't everyone just speak German?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/07/12 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/07/12/3824741.aspx

Remember when I pointed out how One day, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, might have to speak English?

Well, as Raymond points out in this post, Germany looks to be even further along in their process of smacking down on immigrants who aren't learning the native language....

Of course the amazing part is the nature of the EU/non-EU distinction being made, especially with countries that are currently candidate countries, such as Turkey.

So let me get this straight.

If Sarkozy calms down and Turkey becomes a member, then suddenly Turkish is okay, but for now despite the huge immigrant population that was invited, they have no choice but to go learn German?



This post brought to you by U+206e, a.k.a. NATIONAL DIGIT SHAPES)

Ad on 12 Jul 2007 6:54 AM:


Some remarks from this side of the water:

1. Turkey will never be a part of the EU. The vast majority of EU citizens do not (and will not) want it to happen. Turkey's culture is too far removed from that which binds the rest of Western & Central Europe together, namely: post-Renaissance Christianity and liberal democracy.

2. Significant differences in culture are drivers behind language competence improvement. All EU countries have some level of demand that immigrants identify with the cultural values of the host country and integrate with the local population (for which local language competence is essential). Failure to learn the language leads immigrants to remain clustered in ghettos and perpetuates cultural differences leading to conflicts and lack of opportunity for the immigrants themselves. They need language to get a job!

3. Anyone coming to live in 'my house' lives by my rules. If an immigrant does not want to integrate into the life of the host country why remain? Language competence is the biggest barrier to integration. That is not to say that in the EU, speaking any language except that of the host coutnry is illegal. And Immigrants are free to leave at any time if they don't want to live by the house rules.

4. The distinction 'non-EU/EU' is a non-issue. EU citizens are free to live and work in any EU country. In the same way, Texans are free to live and work in California. Neither in the EU or the US can someone from Yemen just fly in and expect to get a (legal) job - it's even highly unlikely they will be allowed through immigration anyway!

Ad on 12 Jul 2007 7:55 AM:

And some additional information, for your interest:

Mosques in US (2000 figures): 1209

Muslims in US (2000 estimate): 6-7 million

Citizens in US (2006 estimate): 296 million

Mosques in Germany (2006): 2300    (+~100 in planning application)

Muslims in Germany (2006): 3.5 million

Citizens in Germany (2006): 83 million

Making some calculations:


mosques per capita (all citizens) = 1 mosque per 244830 citizens

mosques per capita (muslims) = 1 mosque per 5790 muslims

muslims as % of citizens = 2.4%


mosques per capita (all citizens) = 1 mosque per 36087 citizens

mosques per capita (muslims) = 1 mosque per 1522 muslims

muslims as % of citizens = 4.2%

So you can see that there is a much higher density of muslims in Germany and that they are better catered for in terms of religious facilities (mosques).

There have been several German-Turkish muslim members of the German national parliament (equiv of US State Reps), 2 of whom are currently serving. There are also many Turkish (and other Muslim) members of German State legislatures. There are also 2 German muslim members at the European Parliament who are of Turkish ancestry.

As far as I am aware, the first and only Muslim to be elected to the US Congress was state Rep Keith Ellison, an Afro-American who converted to Islam when in college.

Who is kidding who here?

Christoph Päper on 12 Jul 2007 2:26 PM:

NB: Probably the most popular and ubiquous fast-food in Germany is döner kebab and even the smallest town has at least one Italian-run gelateria and pizzeria. It’s never pure integration, but always bidirectional though unbalanced assimilation.

The mediterranean work forces of the 60s were thought of as guests back then, but those who stayed are now part of the population proper. Many of them and their descendants are not yet part of the German people, though. The basic prerequisite for membership therein, in the eyes of the vast majority of current members who are the ones (implicitly) making the rules, is the language – paying taxes or owning an FRG passport may make you part of the nation but not automatically of the people too. This is fundamentally different to US citizenship (at least as it used to be seen) as far as I can tell.

It’s difficult to separate those concepts of population, people, nation, citizenship … (and maybe I chose the wrong English terms), but it’s necessary to try, because otherwise you’ll fail to grasp to understand the problems truly.

Despite identification and acceptance there are other reasons, probably  stronger ones, to require certain basic language skills from new inhabitants. One of them is their own well-being, for you need to be able to communicate with the rest of your larger environment to be able to live a life dignified on your own – (not only) a pragmatic feminist point of view. Or like one immigrant teenager put it, it’s easier to pick up girls using German.

Partially for history-founded political overcorrectness, German authorities long avoided asking immigrants for anything that would help their assimilation. So, because human beings tend to join alikes, they don’t like to change habits and expatriats, especially in groups, tend to be(come) more patriotic and traditional than those they left we see tendencies of ghettoisation and even recess in assimilation among the younger generation. Mastering the major language is essential to get the best education and thus job and life one is capable of (unless you count in crime, sports and submissive marriage).

Nevertheless there is a lack of understanding of the history of migration among those considering themselves German to the bones. Many surnames, sounding or looking French or Polish for instance, reveal this forgotten heritage and so do loan words. While the land or politics considered German changed over time, the language always stayed (although it underwent internal diachronic changes of course), despite French and Latin being the languages of the rulers and academics respectively once. It’s been there long before the modern concept of nationality.

Anyhow, a law like this was needed, but it could have been done differently (read: better) in details. Also other actions should have been taken, choices been made long ago.

Robert on 12 Jul 2007 2:48 PM:

It seems like a studid regulation, given that Germany belongs to the best places for learning German because of the everyday opportunity of talking to native speakers. There is still hope that the constitutional court will reject the law due to its discriminatory character...

Jens on 13 Jul 2007 2:43 AM:


Being a European/Belgian/Flemish citizen, I'd like to shed some light on this.  First of all, here in Belgium we see that people that who do not speak Dutch and live in Flanders (which as you know is about half of Belgium)  tend to stay unemployed for a very long time.  Speaking the language of the place where you live is the number one means of integration, and without integration you can't find a job, and you can't participate in a community.  So speaking German when movign to Germany is actually in your own best intrest.

Why only for non EU citizens ?  The free movement of EU citizens in all the member countries is guaranteed by the European treaties, so they couldn't make the law apply to all non-Germans.

Further, I don't think Turkey will join the European Union.  Turkey is not European.  I think that Turkey joining the USA would make as much sense as Trukey joining the EU.  As a matter of fact, it would make more sense, since the leader of the USA think that it makes sense for Turkey to join an supranational organ.

Ad on 13 Jul 2007 3:37 AM:

Why is it a stupid regulation? You comment that Germany is the best place for learning German, so doesn't it then follow that if you want to live there (successfully and full-time) you should take the opportunity to learn the language? Immigrants are being paid by the German government to learn German to enable them to become productive members of the society!!! This rule says that if you want to settle in Germany (and you're 'foreign', i.e. non-EU) then you must make an effort to integrate. Sounds totally sensible to me.

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