Friday, August 20, 2004

Re:Reform or German for Dummies

There is this cliche saying that Germans are extremely efficient. Well, that may have been true at the time of the Wirtschaftswunder, but we have developed this horrendous tendency to make everything just extremely complicated and then call it German thoroughness – but it is anything but efficient.

Of course, efficiency is relative. My first boyfriend considered my having an address book a sign of German organisation and efficiency – something I would just call common sense.
Anyways, but Germany, in its angst of its own history and image, has resolved to also throw efficiency out the window, in case it may produce mental image of heel-clicking, black moustaches and edgy gestures of greetings.

A few years ago we had a spelling reform. Basically, this reform came about because a critical mass of people played one too many video games instead of reading a book and failed miserably in getting their language right. I am pretty damn sure that included in this crowd were a few ministers and state secretaries, otherwise none of the people of the top – who tend to be very trained at ignoring the masses – would probably have noticed.

Well, the most obvious thing to do then was – no, not to send the grammatical morons to back to school – to change the rules! Make them “simpler”, which of course is nonsense, because essentially they are just new rules to learn, and learning a new rule instead of the old really makes no bloody difference.

Anyways, of course, lots of costs came along with that. Books had to get reprinted accommodating the new rules, new dictionaries had to be printed, the papers and really any print media had to retrain their writers. On top of that, for any normal person the new
spelling of some words are eye sores. You know when you read a word, and you read it automatically and get a mental picture? With these words it’s kinda like listening to a needle scratch across a record. It just sounds/looks wrong! It really annoys your reading experience.
A lot of publishers protested and stuck to the old writing, which of course confused all the students – you read a word one way in a book and get marked down in school cause they call it wrong.

You get the idea.

So now, after a few years, the first generations have caught up on the new rules and learned them from the beginning (while still, the rest of the population struggles), and one would think maybe people get used to it.

The other day, it was on TV. Big fight among the big animals. They want to change it back to the old ways. A lot of publishers now have had it and have returned to the old writing. I mean, it’s not that it makes a difference to change it… the changes were made for people who can’t spell because they don’t read books anyway. So the way I see it now is that there is German…
and then there is German for dummies.
The way they have sorted this now (at least temporarily) is that both versions are acceptable.
Which kind of negates the idea of a set of rules for grammar and spelling. Anything goes.
God, they’re so postmodern.

German efficiency.

Go figure.

No comments: