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Posted on 30th January 2019
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This short piece on the BBC really highlights the differences between Germany, where I live, and the USA.
The USA has an official language: English (although not always recognisable as English by other English-speaking nations). Germany also has an official language: German (although there are regional dialects, to the extent that people from one region have great difficulty understanding people from another, and Swiss-German speakers have subtitles added when on German TV).
In Germany, the government has no qualms in insisting that people speak and understand German. There is even a test, when applying for residence or citizenship. By contrast, the USA seems to need to tiptoe around the issue, and it is not considered politically correct to make a fuss about residents and citizens not speaking English. Most of us have heard stories of people not being able to order food in places like McDonald's unless they do so in Spanish (in some parts of the USA).
I really don't understand the Americans' reticence about insisting on English: it is the law and it is established practice. Giving in on this could easily lead to a situation like in South Africa, where it is common for a school teacher to have to work in up to 14 different languages in one class.
Insisting on ability in English doesn't mean that other languages are banned. At this moment, there are four of us in my office: two Germans, a South African, and me (from England). All of speak English and German; the South African also speaks Afrikaans (so I can also use my very limited Dutch with her). We speak whichever language is easiest for all participants in a conversation; sometimes we use more than one language in a conversation.
Political correctness is largely an American invention, so it is rather appropriate that they are now becoming victims of the monster they created. I must ask, however, that they keep it on their own side of the Atlantic.