Transforming German Orthography

In Deutsche Welle, another attempt at reforming German orthography:

The original spelling reform of 1996, which was meant to harmonize the spelling rules across the German-speaking countries, turned out to be a major embarrassment if not outright failure.

After six years of teaching the new spelling rules, two German states which make up over one-third of Germany’s population — Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia — decided to throw out both the baby and the bath water and not make the new spelling compulsory.

One of Germany’s major newspapers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and several other press groups turned their back on the 1996 rules, preferring the traditional spelling rules. German Nobel prize winner Günter Grass stood up against the reforms, and the country found a new national pastime: trashing the writing reform. Organizations such as the German Language Research Group or the Teachers Against the Spelling Reform launched their impassioned campaigns with the result that in 2004, 77 percent of Germans still considered the spelling reform not sensible.

It is truly mind-boggling to an outsider that in a country with an unemployment rate of over five million, spelling rules should stir up so much passion. It is even more mind-boggling that spelling seems like a more controversial topic than equal access to education, integration policies and German education underachievement in the EU context. Yet it is beyond any doubt that failed reforms, partial reforms and reforms of the reforms can only undermine public trust in their cultural and political institutions.

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