Is English the Latin of the future?

English as New Latin: Why the German Language Will Survive

Like all national languages, German is being displaced by the all-absorbing language of globalization. There seems to be no shortage of signs of doom. The Anglicisms are already everywhere, eating their way into the German language until the drained body gives up and makes room for the great monotony. The dying of languages ​​or their last speakers regularly makes headlines in the press.

Of course, this suggests the question: Could the German language be included? Those who do not want to directly believe in the downfall will be unsettled in a more subtle way: German, according to the thesis of the linguist Jürgen Trabant, is on the move towards dialect. This really means dialect, Switzerland serves as a model. There, the Schwyzertütsch is advancing against the traditionally artificial High German, for example when it comes to weather reports on television.

However, English has taken the place of Standard German as the standard language. For business and all other serious communications global, for the close range of the family dialect. That is exactly what Germany is about to do.

Trabant reads the Swabian slogan - we can do everything except standard German - as a sign of the transition to Swiss conditions. With the introduction of English lessons in kindergartens, the farewell to German begins.

The Swabians are only the forerunners of a development in which the gap between global dialect above and dialect below will widen more and more. German as High German - so the conclusion - will disappear, that little bit of dialect - that's probably to be added - will follow soon after.

German is one of the most widely spoken languages

In the face of such jeremiads, numbers can provide a sober consideration. Of the approximately 700 million Europeans, almost 100 million speak German as their mother tongue, if you include the Austrians and Liechtensteiners (with German as the sole official language) as well as the German-speaking Swiss, Luxembourgers, Belgians and South Tyroleans.

This means that the German language holds first place in Europe, apart from the approximately 110 million Russians who only partially live in Europe. It is assumed that there are 121 million speakers of German worldwide, making it one of the ten most widely spoken languages ​​(the ranking fluctuates between eighth and tenth place).

While in Europe English ranks considerably behind German with around 61 million speakers, it is vastly higher than German with around 427 million speakers worldwide. And there are other interesting numbers. 38 percent of EU members speak English as a foreign language.

Together with 13 percent native speakers, this adds up to 51 percent. The German language is 18 percent native speakers, but only 14 percent have learned German as a foreign language - together this is 32 percent German speakers in the EU.

It looks similar with the French. With 14 percent native speakers, they are also slightly ahead of the English, but just like the Germans, French was only learned as a foreign language by 14 percent of Europeans, which adds up to 28 percent of the total.

English - this can be summarized - actually dominates not only worldwide, but also in Europe and the EU. So the lamenters are right after all? No, they do not have! The perspective is just wrong.

It is true that the English language is more widespread than the German, that it has a bridging function, lingua franca, that is, it has become a “free” language between speakers who do not speak English as their mother tongue. But that's wonderful! We can book a hotel room in Venice without our opera Italian, ask for directions in Lima, take a guided tour of the Imperial Garden in Kyoto.

English is the new Latin

This is exactly what happened before in the much smaller world of Old Europe: with Latin. English is the new Latin, even if the differences are great when viewed in light. Above all, one thing weighs heavily: Latin (after antiquity) was never a mother tongue.

It is English - and this is exactly where very significant problems are rooted, for example with national pride. Since Europe invented the nation-state, in which the slogan one country, one language applies, hardly any consideration of the linguistic situation has been free from sensitivities that can certainly reach the level of envy among otherwise quite sensible people.

Another problem is the language of the neighbors in your own country. There are now at least 15 million people with a migration background living in Germany, including Germans from abroad (“Spätaussiedler”), people who have immigrated to Germany with their own migration experience and Germans with a migration background through their parents.

The resulting language problems were not recognized for a long time or not sufficiently taken into account. Especially among the numerically particularly strong group of people with a Turkish migration background (one reckons with a total of 2.5 million, including almost a million Germans), there was a lack of suitable offers in both directions: learning the German language was not promoted enough, but also teaching in their own mother tongue was neglected.

The main venue for these problems was and is the school. It was only the Pisa studies that shook the public up and initiated a rethink.

The problem of German-Turkish children in particular has been described many times, for example by Cem Özdemir in “Currywurst and Döner” or “To be German or not?”. Seyran Ates has shown in books such as “Der Multikulti-Errtum” how much integration depends on language skills, but also that this integration cannot be achieved unilaterally by migrants.

It is not the development of a Turkish identity that leads to a parallel society, but the lack of acceptance of this identity in the host society. Migrants have to learn German in Germany without giving up their mother tongue. Terms such as “transculturality” or “transnational identity” may frighten all those who still assume that language and nation correspond in the sense of the 19th century. However, this model is becoming increasingly unrealistic.