Professor Klaus-Börge Boeckmann (see photo right) teaches German as a foreign language at the University of Vienna.
What is Austrian German?
To an English-speaking person, it’s fairly easy to understand what Austrian German is, because there is a similar situation in English. You have several centres of the English language, such as US English, Australian English or British English, and it is basically the same thing with German. Austrian German is a national variety of language that is under a common umbrellahier: Dachumbrella with other national varieties. But we have Austrians teaching German abroad and they often have the problem that people think they aren’t speaking proper German because they come from Austria. And even the Austrians themselves have a slight inferiority complexMinderwertigkeitskomplexinferiority complex about their German.
Is there a dominance of German German over Austrian German?
There is a form of dominance, yes. It’s common that languages have more dominant centres. Just look at British English and American English. Outside of Europe, US English is the standard because it’s the most powerful — it has to do with economic power and the number of people who speak it.
Even the Austrians themselves have a slight inferiority complex about their German
Why do you think Germans are to perceive sb. as (being) sth.jmdn. als etw. wahrnehmenperceived as more direct in the way they speak than Austrians?
I’ve heard this and I understand this perceptionWahrnehmung, Auffassungperception. Sometimes, the expressions seem more direct, at least from an Austrian perspective. It is something of a cliché, perhaps, but the Austrian way of to negotiateverhandelnnegotiating is not to say exactly what you want, but to to make a pointein Argument vorbringenmake your point in a kind of (ifml.)gewissermaßenkind of in a roundabout wayindirekt, durch die Blumeroundabout way. Of course, not all Austrians and not all Germans are like that. To a certain extent, all of these notionVorstellungnotions are stereotypes, but I understand the perception.
How has Austria to cope with sth.etw. meisterncoped with teaching migrants German since 2015?
On the one hand, there is this idea that everyone should learn the language as quickly as possible to integrate into society. On the other hand, the Austrian state doesn’t provide
courses, especially not for people who have asylum seekerAsylbewerber(in)asylum-seeker status. I think that is something that we really need, because the sooner people can get a qualification, the quicker they can enter the job market and to contribute to sth.zu etw. beitragencontribute to society. The present policy seems to be threatening people if they do not learn the language when they immigrate. This can be seen in the integration contract that people have to sign. Under this contract, they have to fulfil sth.etw. erfüllenfulfil certain obligations, especially in the field of language learning, and there are sanctions if they don’t complydie Vorgaben erfüllencomply — which can even lead to their evictionAusweisungeviction.
What kind of obligations?
The immigration contract now includes the learning of values. So, it’s not just a language course. It is very debatable whether you can teach values, and particularly whether you can test that the person has acquired these values. And threatening them is not normally a good motivator for learning.