Thuringian government grapple with making English official language

Thuringian government grapple with making English official language

Since they joined the coalition government in 2021, the FDP has been pushing for Germany to adopt English as an official language in local authority offices. Now, politicians in Thuringia are saying the plan might be a little too ambitious, joining a chorus of critics.

Thuringia politicians question FDP plan for English in Germany

“There’s a bit more to it than a simple coffee order,” Katharina Schenk, secretary of state for local government, said on Friday in the Thuringian state parliament. Since the summer, the local politicians have been chewing over an FDP-suggested policy that English should become an official language in Germany’s authoritative bodies, such as the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners office) or Jobcenter.

For Schenk and her colleagues in the Thuringian parliament, the main concern is administrative documents. Since many necessary documents used in administrative offices are only written in German, it would take a very long time to accurately translate such documents into English so that they could be used with English-speaking visitors.

Though the Thuringian politicians have not totally rejected the idea, they believe that the FDP-imposed goal of making all online documents available in English by January 1, 2024, is too ambitious. 

Using English could help plug German worker shortage

The FDP idea is one that the party believe would aid Germany’s desperate and worsening worker shortage. Local authorities in Germany don’t exactly have a reputation for welcoming friendliness among foreigners.

This sentiment is supported by a recent German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM) study, which confirmed that German job centre employees discriminate - often unintentionally - against workers who do not hold a German passport.

While the German government look for more ways to appeal to the foreign workers it so desperately needs, the FDP policy has faced repeated criticism. The Thuringian government joins the German Civil Servants’ Association, which argues that introducing English as a second language would ultimately lead to more work for already overburdened staff.

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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