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Germany

Constitution should 'protect German language,' says politician

The constitution should make it clear that German is the country's official language, a leading conservative politician said on Friday. His call comes as social integration is at the center of public debate in Germany.

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German conservative politician Alexander Dobrindt on Friday called for the country's language to be enshrined in the constitution. His comments come amid a fierce debate on immigration and integration sparked by former central banker Thilo Sarrazin's controversial claim that Muslim immigrants fail to integrate.

"The protection of the German language ought to be laid down in the constitution," Dobrint told the online edition of mass-circulation paper Bildzeitung.

Alexander Dobrindt

Dobrindt says learning German is a matter of respect for country and culture

"Respect for our German language equals respect for our culture and our country. And that's something we ask of everyone who lives here with us," he added.

Without a common language, successful integration was impossible he argued, pointing towards the fact that other countries, such as France, mention the role of their language in their constitution.

Europe 's largest language community

Experts, however, caution against propagating the idea that immigrants could be a danger to the German language. On the contrary, they say, the lack of German skills is most problematic for individual foreigner trying to get by in Germany.

"The immigrants are not a danger to German and the German language," said Holger Klatte, head of the Association of the German Language, a private organization that aims to protect German. "Knowing German is more than anything else in the interests of immigrants, if they want to get a job and have a successful future," he added.

"I think the biggest danger for the German language is that important groups in our society simply don't speak it," he told Deutsche Welle. "Take for instance some of the big companies in our country that try to establish English as the language spoken among their employees - even for their operations within Germany."

Still, Klatte backed the idea of enshrining German in the constitution as one measure to strengthen the language. But he said putting additional money into teaching the language in public schools was more important.

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Experts call for more money for schools to teach German

German language route

Ahead of the 10th annual day of the German language, which since 2001 has taken place on the second Saturday in September, the trade journal "Deutsche Sprachwelt" suggested that the country create a symbolic route composed of roads and streets in the middle of the country to spread enthusiasm among the population.

"More than ever before, it is necessary that we awaken the nation's curiosity for their language," said Editor-in-Chief Thomas Paulwitz. "A German language avenue would be one way to achieve this aim."

He suggested the route could include places that have played significant roles in the history of the German language and literature.

Paulwitz said several politicians had already expressed interest in the project, which could begin at some point next year.

Author: Gabriel Borrud, Andreas Illmer
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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