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The German dialectal diversity is endangered

by Paul Kemper

Germany has 20 different families of dialects which are subdivided into even more different forms. Because German is not only spoken in Germany, but also in Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, I will just refer to the variations in Germany.

I grew up speaking German with a Westphalian dialect, which distinguishes from normal Standard German in vocabulary and even in grammar. It was quite normal for me to talk to everyone in this dialect until I came into school. In Germany just High German (Hochdeutsch) is told, written and spoken in schools. This is the first problem standing in the way while saving the German dialects: The German government wants that every German, Austrian and Swiss speak the same type of German to prevent language barriers. That means that somehow the educational system is one the reasons why our dialects die out. There should be a subject in which the local dialect is told, at least once a week.

Another big issue is the digitalization: While social media and the internet become more and more indispensable for our daily lives our dialects are more and more neglected. In the Tagesschau (the most important German news broadcast) only High German is spoken. That's a reason why adults lose the contact with their local dialect and because children and teenagers spend more and more time on their phones, they lose this contact as well. An approach would be that regional news broadcasts are more supported and the anchors should have the permission to tell the news in their dialect even in the news for entire Germany.

The next thing are the enterprises where phone calls and job interviews are done in Standard German. Often the CEO's hold a very good High German in high regard and this is a problem for the adults like the school issue for the children because the parents lose the contact with their dialect even during work. This is very dramatic because adults spend much time working and students spend much time in schools.

All in all I can say that our dialects are endangered by issues like school, digitalization and work. The German dialects should get a higher reputation within our state and the government should adapt to them and maybe they should get the status as a national language. But without doing anything the extinction of our dialects will advance. With losing our dialects we lose lots of our culture and soul.

About the writer

Paul Kemper is a 15-year-old German who is very interested in linguistics, geography and the different dialects of the world's languages. His opinion is that dialects are to often neglected but they play an important role for the language diversity of the world. He speaks/learns German, English, French, Spanish, Norwegian and Danish.

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