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School: German children cannot learn Turkish

The Local · 11 Sep 2012, 16:03

Published: 11 Sep 2012 16:03 GMT+02:00

Chiara Rick from Duisburg, North-Rhine Westphalia, asked to learn Turkish with some of her Turkish-speaking classmates but was told that there was a state decree preventing it, said regional paper the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ).

She had learned some English while in kindergarten and has a passion for languages - she told the paper she “wants to learn Turkish too,” after being introduced to it by classmates.

Her mother Sabine said it was “a really great thing” that her daughter wanted to learn a completely different language – that of her friends at school

The decree excluding German native-speakers from classes taught for pupils with a different mother tongue had, she said, nothing to do with integration. “What benefit for integration does it have when they stick among themselves?” she added.

No-one from the school was available for comment, but the school advisory board said it was keen to find a solution.

Head of the board Wolfgang Streuff told the paper that he had “never come across anything like this before.”

Strictly speaking, the decree means that a primary school child cannot take part in classes taught in a foreign language, Streuff said. He said children were sometimes allowed in foreign language lessons for a specific reason, for example if their family were planning to move abroad.

But he said there simply would not be enough teachers to offer Turkish language tuition to all pupils.

Rick said the rule was outdated, saying some families of Turkish origin were already third generation German. “One Turkish family which we know speaks German at home,” she said, questioning where schools should draw the line on who was a native speaker.

The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

17:16 September 11, 2012 by Englishted
Hold on let me get this right ,she wanted to learn Turkish with her " Turkish-speaking classmates " .

So the lessons were reading and writing Turkish ?, that is a major commitment for a 6 year old .

But why is the state and/or school involved anyway? if you want to learn a language that is not in the curriculum don't you pay for it privately ?.
17:31 September 11, 2012 by Onlythetruth
Its the german and english languages that german kids need to learn.
17:39 September 11, 2012 by zeddriver
Welcome to politically correct schooling. One would assume that if you are committed enough to live in Germany to the point of enrolling your children in school. And one was not proficient in German. Would it not make more sense to enroll your children in a class to learn German.
17:42 September 11, 2012 by marimay
@ only the truth..... why?

The US and German economies are tanking, while the Turkish economy is growing significantly, perhaps learning Turkish would come in handy some day. ;)
18:00 September 11, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
English is the language of business and will remain so even with the emergence of China. In any case this article is not about this. It is about learing turkish which "Strictly speaking, the decree means that a primary school child cannot take part in classes taught in a foreign language",

It is absurd. Would she have been entitled to learn Turkish or any other language in a class thought through German?
19:17 September 11, 2012 by Gretl
What is it about politics and language classes? My daughter is being forced to learn Spanish in elementary school when we live in Germany. Who cares that Spanish is a major 2nd language in the U.S. when we are stationed here? They should be teaching kids German.
19:18 September 11, 2012 by AClassicRed
If you really wanted to be technical about the article or situation, as the phrase in the opening sentence suggested and what Zeddriver assumed: "Why was the school offering Turkish lessons to some students, yet excluding non-Turkish speakers from it?" If they were Turkish, surely they could learn Turkish in their homes from their parents or other family members.

So Zeddriver, ask the school why they were offering the courses, NOT question why the Turkish families would take advantage of the offer in the first place. Who is to say that the Turkish children weren't otherwise taking German language class also? Not you. And to Berlin fuer Alles, it stated in the article the children were already learning English, so your objections and indirect accusations are also nullified.
21:05 September 11, 2012 by zeddriver

I think you missed something. I was talking about the school. I have no reason to question the Turkish families. My interpretation of the article was that it was Turkish being taught to Turkish children. So. If the school wants to help those students who are living in Germany that speak Turkish. Wouldn't it make sense to teach them German and not Turkish?

And why would it be the German schools responsibility to teach Turkish to Turkish children with German tax money?
21:10 September 11, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles

You missed my point also. I was wondering why "a primary school child cannot take part in classes taught in a foreign language", If they were already learning English then they should just as equally be able to learn Turkish. English is also a foreign language in Germany or have I missed something?
21:42 September 11, 2012 by Englishted

" it stated in the article the children were already learning English, "

No it states "She had learned some English while in kindergarten "

That is not the same and it is not plural .
21:54 September 11, 2012 by naadij
Many linguistical studies show that immigrant children with a high proficiency in their home language (both reading, writing, and understanding) allows for a higher rate of learning a new language such as German!
22:26 September 11, 2012 by Eric1
This is another example of anti-caucasian racism, pure and simple. Bigotry does exist and in the 21 century it's aimed at caucasians.
22:43 September 11, 2012 by Lachner
This is ridiculous! First of all, why is the German education system offering classes in Turkish only for foreigners in German schools? This is doing absolutely no good for the integration of the foreigners to Germany and is completely absurd. If the foreign children don't know German, then they should be learning German and not having classes in their mother tongue. If they want to offer a Turkish, Chinese or Spanish language course, then that's fine. Nonetheless, having an entire curriculum set up for foreign children in Turkish just because they don't know German defeats the purpose entirely. It makes me mad that Germans are so politically correct and lack the guts to scream "THIS IS GERMANY"!
22:45 September 11, 2012 by ChrisRea
It seems that the article was understood differently by different readers. The way I understand the situation is that children are taught German (as the official and in most of the cases native language), English and other international languages (as foreign languages) and, if they belong to the Turkish community, they are also taught Turkish (as native language). The crux is the law that discriminates non-Turkish speakers by not allowing them to learn Turkish. I wonder what was in the head of the law maker.

I think it is very nice from Chiara to try to learn Turkish. Besides the obvious professional opportunities, it will give her access to a different culture and it will help her to build relationships with native Turkish-speaking people. I experienced the same when I learned the language of the biggest minority in my hometown. It helped me even in Berlin. And I intend to take Chiara's example and try to learn also at least a bit of Turkish.
23:48 September 11, 2012 by crm114
perhaps Chiara is only at A1 and she's trying to join a B2 stream. In such a situation it would perfectly sensible to block her access.
23:48 September 11, 2012 by Katinkaxx
The lessons they are talking about in the article are called "Herkunftssprachlicher Unterricht". It is currently offered in 16 languages of major immigrant groups in NRW, among them Turkish, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Greek and so on. The lessons usually take place in the afternoon after the "regular" school day is over. They are of course not offered as a replacement, but as an addition to lessons in German. Research has shown that bilingual children profit from improving their knowledge in their first language (e.g. learning to read and write in it) and that this also has a positive effect on their German. See:


Now, this whole controversy has arisen because the lessons are directed at children who can already speak Turkish, Russian, Italian etc. when they enter first grade, most of whom are to some degree bilingual in German and their first language. The lessons are about learning to read and write in that language, "proper" grammar", widening the vocabulary and learning the standard language and not only the dialect used at home. That makes the lessons very different from the English classes in kindergarten or primary school, which are not directed at native speakers but mainly about singing songs and learning some basic vocabulary.

Chiara does not speak Turkish yet and the lessons are not aimed at beginners who want to learn a foreign language . Frankly, I don't find it so outrageous that she wasn't allowed to participate. She will probably be served much better with a "My First One Hundred Words in Turkish" picture book and some Turkish playmates.
00:05 September 12, 2012 by zeddriver

I think it's a great concept. But those classes should not be funded by the tax payers. If the classes are funded by the families. Then kudos to them for going the extra mile for their children. It may seem harsh. But it's not the German tax payers responsibility to teach immigrants their native tongue. Especially when government budgets are already tight.
00:40 September 12, 2012 by Katinkaxx
@zeddriver: The alternative is the so-called "Konsularunterricht". As you probably know, the individual states in Germany are responsible for education. Some states offer the language classes themselves, in others they are provided by the foreign (Turkish/Italian etc.) embassies ("Konsularunterricht"). The Konsularunterricht has frequently been criticized for being nationalist in outlook and given to foster a "ghetto mentality" rather than preventing it.

One of the responsibilities of public schools is to support all children and help them realise their potential. It has been proven that classes in their first language also help children from immigrant families to improve their German and their overall performance in school. The language lessons can moreover improve the relationship between the school and the parents. Taxpayers also pay for extra German lessons for immigrant children or for additional teachers for handicapped children. Personally, I'd rather pay my taxes for something that may help immigrant children succeed in school now than for years of social welfare later.
01:06 September 12, 2012 by zeddriver

"I'd rather pay my taxes for something that may help immigrant children succeed in school now than for years of social welfare later." True enough. And I'll leave it at that. For I fear that if I were to bring up the immigration/welfare issue. It would soon devolve into a shouting match.
03:54 September 12, 2012 by Klaipeda
Someone asked "why is the state involved"? The state is involved because Germany and the rest of Europe have succumbed to the multiculturalism philosophy that has been pushed on them by a certain ethnic group (no, not Turks) that will go unnamed at this time. The state is involved because schools are funded by the state and they bent to the wishes of certain people who wanted to teach Turkish in schools. I expect Germany only agreed to this because not enough Turks were learning German and this way Turks would not be held up from learning other subjects. The Turkish language classes are only for Turks and they were set up with some regret.

Whereas Europe always had a degree of immigration from one neighboring country to another, in general newcomers were expected to learn the language and ways of the new country they settled in. Multiculturalism pushes the point that people should not be forced to abandon their own culture and they can have two cultures. On its own there does not appear to be anything wrong with that. But, multiculturalism is being pushed to a degree that the ethnic makeup of countries is changing and changing drastically. We're not talking about Europeans moving between countries, but Africans, Asians and others moving to Europe in droves. The people pushing multiculturalism are winning the day so far.
06:06 September 12, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles

I think you hit the nail on the head. Well diagnosed and good cognitavie skills demonstrated. I might get around to reading the comments after yours at a later date but as far as I am concerned you summed it up perfectly.
08:45 September 12, 2012 by ovalle3.14
I am keen on proposing a solution: allow this girl to take the class.
09:06 September 12, 2012 by catjones
One little girl, one simple request, one Rule, 23 comments.....and that is the news.
09:48 September 12, 2012 by Morseman

Judging by your post, the elementary school is US military. They come under a completely different regime than the German state schools. Your query should be directed at your Department of Defense.
10:51 September 12, 2012 by Englishted


@ Katinkaxx

I bet English is not one of the 16 on your list ,could you list them as I'm nosey,

11:28 September 12, 2012 by Katinkaxx
@25: In NRW, they are currently offering lessons in the following languages:

Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Greek, Italian, Croatian, Kurdish, Mazedonian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Slowenian, Spanish, Turkish.

From what I understand, the list is not "fixed", there could be other languages as well. Classes are provided if there are at least 15 bilingual children who speak the same foreign language in grades 1-4 and 18 in grades 5-10 (not sure if that means in one school or in one city). I think English would have to be offered as well if there were enough English native speakers in German public schools (there aren't).
12:03 September 12, 2012 by DoubleDTown
@ Englishted -- at least in Dresden, English is one of them

@Katinkaxx -- YES See http://www.schulministerium.nrw.de/BP/Unterricht/Faecher/Fremdsprachen/FAQMU/

If the girl in the story wanted to get into one of these classes, she'd be a hindrance and it's clear she doesn't belong in such a class.
12:37 September 12, 2012 by Katinkaxx

"YES See http://www.schulministerium.nrw.de/BP/Unterricht/Faecher/Fremdsprachen/FAQMU/ "

That's the same link I mentioned in #16 :)

"at least in Dresden, English is one of them"

Interesting - do you have a link for that? Are there many English native speakers in Dresden and if so, why?
18:58 September 12, 2012 by sonriete
I agree with the Headmaster, the law is outdated. The Headmaster should have the discression to permit this girl into the class to learn Turkish, Her mother says she has a passion for languages, to me it sounds like she's a curious little girl, likely with a bright future.

The issue should be focused more on forcing children to take foreign language classes, not preventing them.

English I can understand, it is a world wide lingua franca. It is harder and harder to justify forcing French language classes on pupils.

At one time it was the language of diplomacy but now English is replacing it there, It was once the most common language in the EEC, now German is the most widely spoken mother tongue in the EU.

Germans and French can communicate quite well with each other in English, take all those forced French classes and let those kids learn something useful, like computer skills or Mandarin.
22:56 September 12, 2012 by zeddriver

I believe this class is for students that already have a working knowledge of Turkish. It's not a beginners course. And the lessons are in Turkish.
08:39 September 13, 2012 by ChrisRea
Well, if the friends she is playing with are speaking Turkish, I bet she speaks at least the basics as well. I learned my first foreign language the same way. I actually never studied it formally, but it still helps me finding my way around (I would say that means "working knowledge").
11:18 September 13, 2012 by jlmcnamara
First of all, I would assume the German girl would not have enough practice to keep up with the others and would therefore be a drag on their learning. If these classes help the immigrant kids, so be it, but that girl has plenty of other stuff to learn at that age -- math, reading, spelling, penmanship, etc. Plus, don't they have homework to do in the afternoons?

There would not be such an uproar if this were an educated university student majoring in Turkish or Ottomanologie or whatever scientific sounding name the Germans give it. I think the issue is that the fundamentals are being neglected, perhaps by the immigrants, perhaps by the non-immigrants, even if this is only a course to be taken in the afternoon -- the equivalent of evening in North America considering the early start to the school day in Germany.

Personally, I have my doubts that teaching Turkish will improve their German, which is the ultimate goal. I grew up in a transatlantic household and while we understood German at home, my parents made sure I was to learn English fluently. Learning nuances of German grammar and vocabulary might have been nice to know, but they were in no way the most effective building blocks to learning English language or immersing myself in my adopted culture.

But if budgets allow, they might as well offer other classes to non-immigrant kids in the afternoons too.
14:06 September 13, 2012 by Englishted
Just a thank you to both @Katinkaxx and @DoubleDTown,for providing swift and concise answers to my inquiry .
16:57 September 13, 2012 by Neanderthal
haha! Welcome yo Little Anatolia!
14:20 September 14, 2012 by ValP
I might be wrong, but i think the whole story was just blown out of all proportion. These classes are most probably intended for native speakers of Turkish (and probably offered as an alternative to Religion classes), that's why the girl was told she couldn't attend. Why does everyone have to immediately start whining and shouting about bigotry, discrimination, racism and whatnot as soon as the word "Turkish" is mentioned??
15:18 September 14, 2012 by DoubleDTown
@ValP: I think you are right they are intended for native Turkish speakers. I doubt they are a substitute for Religion. That would most likely be Ethik.

@Englighted & @Katinkaxx

Nope, I didn't find a link re Dresden. Believe it or not, apparently not everything is on the Internet. :-)

But, trust me, (why shouldn't you?) Dresden offers Herkunftssprachlicher Unterricht for English native speakers. It goes on at the 51. Grundschule. Kids have to go there for the classes, regardless of what Grundschule they attend. Call the Sächsische Bildungsagentur in Dresden to confirm if you wish.

Dresden is German's 13th largest city. There's a lot of stuff going on here even if there aren't major international company headquarters offices here. So, there are enough families with at least one parent with English as their native language that there are enough elementary school-aged kids for Dresden to offer English as a native language classes. These classes don't meet often, just once a week, and kids have to travel to a centralized location, but there they are as part of the public school system.

Also, there is a British guy and a Canadian guy on the city's foreigners' advisory council: http://www.dresden.de/de/02/030/03/c_03.php
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