Germany language policy and language Rights
Language policies in Germany, as in other European countries, are still strongly influenced by the notion that nations are, or ideally should be, monolingual. At the present time, the German Constitution, does not have an explicit statement of national language (Pfaff, 2011). Despite this, German is the official language in the Federal Republic of Germany and the language used in schools, the media and other forms of communication. The dominance of German in schools, politics, the legal system, administration and the entire written public domain is so great that for a long time the lack of a coherent language policy was not seen as a problem (Adler & Beyer, 2017).
Germany is also multilingual, encompassing social groups which use German, but also groups which use regional minority languages or migrant minority languages (Pfaff, 2011). It is particularly on the international or European level that Germany has made more specific and far-reaching commitments to protect the minority’s language rights. Firstly, there is the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by the Council of Europe, which deals with the protection of minorities in general, including language use (Adler & Beyer, 2017). Secondly, there is the more language-related European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. It is often regarded as the most extensive commitment of the states towards their minority languages (Gesley, 2018).
The language rights in Germany however, raises issues given that the country’s language policy mostly focuses on making German the dominating language. Minority languages that are protected benefit from funding provided by the Federal Government and the federal states in which they are spoken (Gesley, 2018). The minorities have the right to be educated in their language. An important innovation reflecting the changed rationale for mother tongue education to the promotion of minority and majority multilingual competence has been the establishment and proliferation of two-way bilingual education programs in a number of languages (Gesley, 2018). Several German cities have private schools which offer bilingual immersion programs.
Nevertheless, turning now to policies directed at children and youth with migrant background, focus on their development of proficiency in German is strong. The current focus is on German at the expense of children’s heritage language varieties. Additionally, the German government initiated an integration course for adults which is predominantly devoted to German language instruction, with the goal of attainment of the B1 level of the European Reference Framework for Languages (Pfaff, 2011).
In conclusion, Germany is still basically monolingual in German. The few existing regulations concern the promotion of the autochthonous minority languages and the acquisition of German by immigrants. Both autochthonous language minorities and-especially-immigrants contribute to a growing multilingualism at the individual level. Attitudes towards multilingualism, however, seem to be ambivalent.
Adler, A., & Beyer, R. (2017). Languages and language policies in Germany/Sprachen und Sprachenpolitik in Deutschland. In National language institutions and national languages. Contributions to the EFNIL Conference.
Gesley, J. (2018). The Protection of Minority and Regional Languages in Germany. Library of Congress.
Pfaff, C. W. (2011). Multilingual development in Germany in the crossfire of ideology and politics: Monolingual and multilingual expectations, polylingual practices. Transit, 7(1).