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New German Citizenship Questions Flunk Cultural Sensitivity Test

A Turkish immigrant group feel the new citizen tests, which will be required starting Sept. 1, 2008 for anyone wanting German nationality, reflect cultural biases.

Person takes a test

The test will become mandatory starting in September

Turkish Community Chairman Kenan Kolat said the 310 multiple-choice questions published by the Interior Ministry tested not only knowledge of Germany but "to some extent also attitudes."

The test is additional to existing naturalization requirements.

One question asks what allows people in Germany to speak out openly against the government. The possible answers are: freedom of religion, taxation, right to vote, freedom of opinion.

Another question references Germany's Christian heritage by asking what the last four weeks before Christmas are called. The following choices are given: All Souls' Day, Harvest Festival, Advent, All Saints' Day.

Citizenship courses make much more sense than a test, Kolat said in an interview with the Cologne-based daily Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger.

Multiple-choice exam

Thirty-three questions will be chosen at random from a longer list which will be made public beforehand. More than half of the questions will need to be answered correctly.

Integration courses to prepare for the test will remain optional. Kolat said he favored citizenship courses instead of a test.

Candidates could be asked to list the colors of the German flag and how they are displayed. They will need to know cultural reference points such as who composed the "Ode to Joy." And they will be required to beef up on trivia such as the names of Germany's mountain ranges.

Not all questions easy

Kolat suggested putting the questions to Germans at information stands in Berlin.

"It would be interesting to see how that goes off," he said.

The academics from Berlin's Humboldt University who compiled the questions tested them in schools, taking as their guinea pigs pupils of both German and immigrant origin.

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