Anthony Bushell
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German: Product recall?

Anthony Bushell

Languages come and go, and so do those languages which a society chooses to learn in addi-tion to its own. It is a striking and remarkable fact that the massive Soviet military presence in central and Eastern Europe following the Second World War was not reflected in the lin-guistic behaviour of the countries it occupied. Anyone familiar with the history of the former German Democratic Republic will know of the antipathy of most East Germans towards learning Russian. School syllabuses and the obligation to pass exams in Russian in order to progress through the system made little difference. And once the Berlin Wall collapsed, so too did the position of Russian in the German educational system. By contrast (American) English was quickly embraced by West German society after 1945. Competence in English became a sine qua non for successful businessmen, scientists and academics, and it was also embraced unquestioningly by teenagers as the language of entertainment.