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Chapter 3 - English in Germany and the European Context

from I - The Status of English

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2019

Raymond Hickey
Universität Duisburg–Essen
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The topic of the present volume is the role of the English language in the German-speaking world. While the preceding chapter has dealt with the presence of English in contemporary German life as well as the attitudes that speakers have towards the English language (Mair, this volume), this chapter draws attention to the fact that Germany is not an isolated case of a country in which English has a prominent role to play (the actual degree of prominence, however, will be a major issue in this chapter). Germany forms part of continental Europe, not just geographically and politically, but also sociolinguistically, in that all European nations are witnessing a significant influence of the English language – if to different extents (and the extent of influence in different European countries will be a further major issue here). In what follows, the focus will thus be on Germany (since Austria and Switzerland are covered in separate chapters, cf. Smit and Schwartz, this volume, and Pfenninger and Watts, this volume, respectively) in the European context, comparing the German case to that of its direct and less direct European neighbours in terms of how they should be classified within a taxonomy of English-using regions worldwide. To this end, the chapter will first lay out the classical three-part classification of English-language regions and users and review how past literature has located Europe and individual European countries within this model. Focusing on the functions of English within the countries as well as the English proficiency of speakers, Germany will then be compared to other European countries, finding it to be positioned firmly in the middle ground regarding both parameters. In a comparison with the Netherlands it becomes particularly clear that Germany is not as strongly English-oriented as some of its fellow European states. Finally, however, the chapter will make the point that a focus on the national level hides important intranational differences or even chasms as far as proficiency in English, use of English, and attitudes towards English are concerned – and that appears to be as true for Germany as for all other European nations, even those with an overall high affinity towards English.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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