The German Language Association’s statement on “Gender-neutral language”

The German Language Association’s statement on “Gender-neutral language”

There is no law at the state or federal level in Germany regarding the use of the German language for “gender equality”. Similarly, no new standards have been established for official writing rules. Yet, an increasing number of official institutions, universities, companies and media outlets are revising their use of the German language to align with gender equality.

The debate on this issue was particularly heated up by the publication of the famous German dictionary Duden in August 2020. Duden included a section on “Gender-Equitable Language” featuring different formulations for gender equality.

The German Language Association (Der Verein Deutsche Sprache) opposed to Duden’s publication and increasing use of language for “gender equality”.

We are publishing the statement by the Association translating into English.

The problems

The German language is currently facing two life-threatening attacks. Life-threatening in the sense that its functionality as a fully-fledged cultural language in which one can conduct scientific research or write legal texts, love letters and poems, is at risk.

Firstly, all languages and cultures of Europe, except for English, are under strong pressure from globalization. They are losing significance worldwide and are increasingly being displaced by Anglo-American language and culture. Specifically in Germany, there are also the destructive interventions of a predominantly ideologically motivated gender movement that is undermining the foundations of our language, the grammar.

Gender language is anti-democratic

Through gender language, a small clique of ideologues, allegedly advocating for women’s rights, who are well-established and networked in the upper echelons of politics and administration, are arrogantly overriding established rules of German grammar. Against the will of a stable and clear majority of citizens, absurd, disabled- and foreigner-hostile speech and writing regulations are being decreed in offices and universities. This is accompanied by an equally absurd claim that this is necessary and beneficial for the equal rights of all genders. The German Language Association (Der Verein Deutsche Sprache) therefore funds legal actions by individuals who feel their rights are being violated by such regulations and advocates publicly, through lectures and direct communication with misguided gender speakers, for a linguistically reasonable recognition of diversity in this and other areas of life.

Gender language is hostile to women and diverse groups

No woman has ever earned an extra euro through gender language. On the contrary, these missionary interventions into an established linguistic structure make a quite legitimate concern seem ridiculous. Through the abolition of the “generic masculine” carried out in association with the Duden editorial team -which refers equally to all genders according to the rules of German grammar (despite its somewhat unfortunate designation) – the German language is unnaturally and forcibly sexualized. That causes disenfranchisement of all persons who do not feel belonging to either of the two main sexes.

The grammatical gender to which someone belongs is not identical to their biological gender. This becomes immediately clear if you ask a random German citizen whether she or he thinks of men or women when they hear the word “die Schnapsdrossel” (a term for someone who drinks heavily). Similarly, “der Putzteufel” (a term for someone who is obsessed with cleaning) is still considered a woman by most people despite the masculine article “der.”

Gender language is hostile to disabled people and foreigners

Gender language is also a burden for many disabled people. Screen readers are no longer functional for the blind and autistic individuals also suffer. Many have adapted to communicating with short two-word sentences and manage quite well, but gender language presents them new problems. Not to mention the approximately three million dyslexic and learning-disabled people in Germany. For them, writing and speaking correctly has now become even more like a torment. Many disability associations therefore speak out against gender language. Even the Left Party refrains from using excessive gendered German on their websites, explicitly stating that they do not want to make life harder for disabled people than it already is.

The same applies to the many immigrants. Gender language would make learning the German language, which is indispensable for successful integration, more difficult.

And then Denglisch…

Independent of the gender movement, many European languages have been suffering for some time from a loss of expressiveness; new facts and concepts are hardly ever named in their own language anymore, and the description of the world is largely left to a foreign language and culture. This is particularly evident with the growing importance of English in business, advertising and especially in science. New technical terms almost exclusively come from English. This self-abandonment of one’s own language is more than a fad; it weakens the cultural independence of non-Anglophone countries. This is also evident from the declining significance of non-English languages in the offices and bodies of the European Union. Even the large languages by number of speakers are being marginalized, especially German as the most widely spoken native language in the EU. Here, a democratic deficit is emerging that threatens European integration in the long term.

Anglicization and Americanization are particularly advanced in German-speaking countries

The undervaluation of the native language, the lack of loyalty to language, and the weak promotion of the German language by the state particularly in Germany and Austria endanger its function as a means of communication and as the glue that holds our society together. At the same time, scientists, business leaders, media producers, and politicians extol the influence of English as a fine consequence of globalization. We particularly observe the introduction of English as the corporate language in large companies, the displacement of the German language from numerous university programs, or the almost compulsive use of English and pseudo-English expressions in cultural and everyday life (social distancing, lockdown, home office, etc.). Here word formation in one’s own language is neglected. Technical terminologies die out. The German language is being reduced to a simple vernacular, if not a dialect.

The vocabulary of a culture must be re-deciphered and interpreted anew by each generation

An unwritten contract of generations previously facilitated the linguistic access of subsequent generations to their own history and culture, and also to the future they shaped themselves. The widespread undervaluation of our national language today calls this contract into question. The constant switching between two linguistic systems, German and English which have different grammar and orthography, impairs the willingness of our children and grandchildren to continue using the German language creatively and to depict reality with its help.

Many scientists make their technical languages a gateway for English words. They allow the German language to be completely displaced by English in science losing its ability for scientific expression.

Even though English is undoubtedly useful for the exchange of knowledge and ideas across language boundaries, this does not mean that English technical terms and texts no longer need translation or that scientists should only speak English. Every technical language that allows creative thinking (with the exception of formal languages) is rooted in a developed cultural language and constantly draws on its native vocabulary and stock of explanatory phrases and images. This also applies to the natural sciences. In some sub-disciplines of natural sciences, the German language has already completely disappeared.

Our demands

In science:

  • Preservation and further development of the German language in research and teaching;
  • German as an equal conference language at congresses in German-speaking countries;
  • Better promotion of scientific publications in German;
  • Creation of a European citation index for scientific publications;
  • End the practice of forcing students and pupils to use gender language with the threat of lower grades;

In public administration:

  • Withdrawal of all gender language regulations;
  • Administrations, universities, and schools should draft curricula and all publicly funded guidelines in a proper German;

In the Ministers of Education:

  • German language instruction in secondary schools up to the final exams;
  • Subject teaching (except for foreign languages) exclusively in German;
  • Special promotion of German as a basis for the integration of students with a different native language;
  • Amendment of state higher education laws or the federal Higher Education Framework Act to ensure the provision of teaching in German;

In consumer protection associations:

  • Clear designations and descriptions in the interest of product safety and consumer protection;
  • Legal options for consumers to take action against violations;

In companies, offices and public institutions:

  • Fulfillment of the obligation to provide information in the national language;
  • End the confusion of customers and citizens through English designations;
  • End the gender nonsense;

To politicians, writers, and journalists:

  • Recognition of their responsibility as role models for language;
  • Constitutional status for the German language;
  • Promotion of German as a foreign language;
  • Advocacy for an appropriate status of the German language in international organizations;

To linguists and especially Germanists:

  • More willingness to assume social responsibility for the language and its creative development;
  • Recognition of linguistic facts instead of ideologically motivated distortion of German grammar in a manner reminiscent of Orwellian language policing.

Our wishes for Europe:

  • The systematic promotion of active and passive multilingualism among European officials and politicians, as well as a balanced functional multilingualism (at least three working languages in EU bodies taking German into account as one of them in line with the demographic and economic weight of German-speaking countries.
  • The willingness of other language groups to preserve their native languages and contribute to the multilingualism of Europe.
  • At least two compulsory foreign languages, including a neighboring language, in all secondary schools of the EU.

We invite all language friends: Join us! As the world’s largest language and cultural association, we offer a platform for everyone who cares about the German language and the linguistic diversity of Europe, who wants our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to still be able to read Goethe and Schiller in the original text.

United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

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June 2024