German authorities are not exactly famous for their progressiveness. The FDP now wants to bring a breath of fresh air into the office. She plans to establish English as an additional administrative language in order to make it easier for migrants to deal with authorities.
A lack of knowledge of German is “a very big hurdle” when recruiting urgently needed specialists, said Federal Education Minister and FDP Presidium member Bettina Stark-Watzinger.
“The point here is that we introduce English as a second language in the administration so that those who come to us can also find access.” The association of towns and municipalities rejected the initiative. Managing Director Gerd Landsberg believes that implementation would take years and lead to additional bureaucracy.
The proposal is counterproductive and would not advance Germany on the way to a better culture of welcome and arrival. Integration expert Ulrike Wieland from the Bertelsmann Foundation is also skeptical.
“The real challenge is that the previous, largely only German-speaking official practice does not adequately do justice to life in an immigration society,” she told the Tagesspiegel.
“I find it rather questionable that the introduction of English as the second official language would provide a quick and effective remedy here.” More knowledge of English among administrative staff is a good approach, but other languages should also be represented in the authorities.
“For example, mastering a second language could be a criterion more often in job advertisements,” she suggests. “If more people who speak additional languages are hired in administration and at the same time purely German-speaking employees receive further training, that is a step in the right direction.”
With a view to foreign skilled workers, which the FDP apparently has in mind, Wieland suspects that the focus on English alone may be too narrow. The Federal Immigration and Integration Council (BZI) is also not enthusiastic.
“If English were to be introduced as the second official language, all members of the judiciary would have to be able to speak English in a ‘court-proof’ manner,” complained Chairman Memet Kilic. The lawyer considers the project of the liberals to be unrealistic and the good intentions to be missed.
The good intentions could be better designed, he says: “For example, if the state would assume the costs of interpreting in certain areas and thereby help a larger group of the population who do not speak German.” The Federal Government Commissioner for Migration reacted more positively , Refugees and Integration Reem Alabali-Radovan (SPD) on the move: “We are making Germany a modern immigration country. It is a pleasure that the governing coalition is pulling together with united forces.” Language is the key to successful integration.
The German Association of Civil Servants is against it. The FDP’s initiative implies that nobody in the administration speaks English, and those who might be able to do so are persistently refusing, spokeswoman Britta Ibald told the Tagesspiegel.
“That’s not just flat out wrong, it’s a pretty outrageous insinuation. Of course, it’s not at Oxford level everywhere, but English is now part of everyday administrative practice, not least because of changes in schooling and training.” In practice, Arabic, Farsi and French are also in demand. “A blanket command of English will not help us. The fact that we are not recruiting any skilled workers because the state allegedly does not speak enough English is an assertion that has not been proven at all.” She also criticizes FDP leader Christian Lindner. “When the Federal Minister of Finance says that there is currently no money for investments, then that also directly affects the employees and their qualifications.”
There are also no storms of enthusiasm from the Greens. “We cannot achieve the urgently needed immigration of workers through additional official languages. In practice, sustainable, successful migration often lies in high-quality support and advice for migrants both in the countries of origin and at home. That’s what we need to focus on,” Misbah Khan, a member of the Homeland and Home Affairs Committee, told the Tagesspiegel.
The Advisory Council for Integration and Migration (SVR) sees the FDP’s proposal positively: We are so proud of the foreign language skills that we teach, why not use them in the authorities? If we manage to find a common language, we will certainly be able to achieve more workers and more integration,” said Birgit Leyendecker from the SVR in an interview with the Tagesspiegel.