The Importance of German in GERMAN LIFE

Do we need a German article in German Life? Can German culture and lore be portrayed in English only?

By Peter Pabisch

Many journals and newspapers describe other parts of the world in English without ever contemplating the languages of these regions and the usage of their respective tongues. Critics may challenge GL’s commitment to maintain a bilingual Language feature where a topic is treated in English and in German. My own opinion is a conflict of interest as I have provided over 40 such bilingual articles during the last decade. One may correctly claim that I am biased yet I have good reasons to hold my view and I feel strengthened in my belief since readers and the GL staff have expressed their support for such a regular feature.

In the 1970s then University of Indiana professor Louis Helbig argued for expanding the field of German into German Studies and adding the vast area of CULTURE (which contains any imaginable subject in the arts and sciences) to the traditional teaching of language and literature, yet, and here’s the innovative part of his suggestion, it could only be taught in English. In fact, nowadays the sciences are often presented in German high schools and at German universities in English only; thereby teachers recognize that English has become the primary scholarly language worldwide. The German language held this position during the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, when every grumbling student of chemistry and physics in the United States had to take a course entitled “Reading German in the Sciences” or even had to endure two semesters of basic German to fulfill the language requirement at schools of higher learning.

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