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Singing From the Same Hymn Sheet but in a Different Language

DW staff (nda)
May 3, 2006

German politician Hans-Christian Ströbele has a novel idea for bringing Germany's diverse cultures together: foreign language national anthems. He wants a Turkish version of the German hymn to promote integration.

The perfect head covering to go with a Turkish version of the German anthem?Image: dpa

For most people, singing a few bars of their national anthem wouldn't prove to be too taxing. Even Sarah Connor, the German pop singer charged with belting out the hymn before the opening of the new Allianz Arena in Munich last May, managed to get most of it right.

While some words and phrases may be a bit fuzzy for the average German, a mumble here and a choked back tear of patriotic emotion there might just cover up the fact that you don't exactly know all the words.

However, the fact that some Germans struggle with the national anthem annoys Green politician Hans-Christian Ströbele. So angered by his compatriots' lack of knowledge is he that he is suggesting that offenders be made to memorize and sing the German national anthem in Turkish.

Turkish version an intended celebration of diversity and integration

Bildgalerie Nach den Wahlen Hans-Christian Ströbele
"I'd like to dedicate this one to all the immigrants out there": Hans-Christian StröbeleImage: dpa

While not strictly true … in fact, barely true … Ströbele is indeed advocating the singing of the national anthem in a foreign tongue, not to punish those who don't know the words but to promote "the many languages of Germany" and to offer up a "symbol of integration."

Ströbele suggests that providing Germany's large Turkish immigrant population with their own version of the national hymn will give them a sense of belonging. But critics of the idea say that a Turkish anthem would be the opposite of the proposed symbol of integration.

"Learning the German national anthem and the German language in writing and spoken word is a key qualification for citizenship and integration," Wolfgang Bosbach from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper Tuesday. "If the German hymn was offered in Turkish, it would send a wrong signal to those immigrants living here."

Christian Social Union (CSU) Member of Parliament Renate Blank echoed her conservative colleague's view.

"We need to promote a better understanding and knowledge of German to the immigrants living here," she said.

Why stop at a Turkish version?

Deutsche Nationalmannschaft trainiert
The Germans invented a dance to go with the new anthemImage: AP

Another important point that the politicians have failed to address arises from Ströbele's first reason behind the idea, that of the "many languages of Germany."

For the integration angle to be justified and the true diversity of the country to be celebrated, the German national anthem would also have to have Italian, Croatian, Polish, Russian, and various African versions.

With so many to choose from, the possibilities are endless -- and rather concerning. One positive aspect would be that those who actually don't know the original text could get away with it by strangling some other foreign version of the anthem with impunity.

But one major disadvantage concerns those cacophonous line-ups before international soccer matches. If you think it sounds bad now, wait until you hear eleven tuneless men all singing different versions of the same song at the same time.