The Language Question in Contemporary Germany: The Challenges of Multilingualism

in German Politics and Society

This article addresses the complex relationships between political discourses, demographic constellations, the affordances of new technologies, and linguistic practices in contemporary Germany. It focuses on political and personal responses to the increasingly multilingual nature of German society and the often-conflicting ways in which “the German language” figures in strategies promoting social integration and Germany's global position. In order to do this, the idea of “the German language” is contextualized in relation to both internal and external processes of contemporary social change. On the one hand, changes to the social order arising from the increasingly complex patterns of inward migration have led to conflicts between a persistent monolingual ideology and multilingual realities. On the other hand, changes in the global context and the explosive growth of new social media have resulted in both challenges and new opportunities for the German language in international communication. In this context, the article explores internal and external policy responses, for example, in relation to education and citizenship in Germany, and the embedding of German language campaigns in strategies promoting multilingualism; and impacts on individual linguistic practices and behaviors, such as the emergence of “multiethnolects” and online multilingualism.

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