Oct 122004

We’re living in an era of daily growing globalization. Economy is not working anymore, if just viewed as a national issue, companies are growing to global structures, while the smaller ones are dying. Wall street coughing creates earthquakes on stock markets around the world. There’s no more place in the world that cannot be reached within in minutes to have a live TV broadcast around the world from there. Information in real time is the reality we’re facing meanwhile. The Internet makes archives of information available for anyone anywhere. Even places like this, where people meet regardless their origin or cultural background, are a sign for the promising as much as frightening vision of a Spaceship Earth. (Yes, I deliberately ignore the political map at this time)

Language as an instrument

One would think the first issue to act upon in a situation like that is the language. If I want to be a part of it and I want to stay in touch with whats going on, I first all have to worry about I DO understand my fellow earthlings and do my best to BE understood, if I got something to say. Without any doubt English is the leading, most important language. As a nation I should make sure my citizens feel motivated to learn that language and use it.

This is what Germany is doing about it:

- last month the heads of radio stations governed by public law agreed to raise, respectively – where its not yet installed – introduce a fixed quota of German language music for the daily play lists.

- last week the Association Of Advertisers decided to reduce, respectively eliminate English phrases and slogans from their texts, because its feared AND customers are said to actively complain they don’t understand it anymore.

- today I heard about an online poll of one of the leading TV stations, ZDF (governed by public law), where users were asked to name their all time favorite books. The result was publicly commented as being “strange”, because the first German author came in “only” in 4th place behind LOTR, the Bible and Ken Follet’s Pillars of Earth (and don’t you dare thinking those were read in any other language than German)

These are the current events which made me write this rant. Here are some more that I simply don’t understand, or, have to see as a deliberate try to keep up and cherish cultural boundaries:

- each and every movie coming to German cinemas gets dubbed, which costs millions since there are highly qualified actors engaged for it. The amazing thing about it is the fact, that, if you want to watch a movie in the original language – and there ARE a few cinemas where you can – you are paying more for your ticket than for the German version.

- exactly the same applies to books and games, which I find really, really annoying. Wonder why they don’t dub music! Imagine Jeanette Biedermann dubbing Britney Spears, or Yvonne Catterfeld dubbing Anatacia’s “Sick and tired” to “Schnauze voll”! What? Whats the big deal with it? Actors rely on their voices just as well and its part of their personalities as well. What about authors? All THEY have are there written words. Not only that a bad translation can ruin the complete sense, no, even the best translations are never close to what the original was meant to be.

- TV! Sigh… thats a LONG story! Technically its NO problem anymore to send two audio signals and let the user choose, which one he wants to listen to, original or dubbed version. But no… they invested their millions (which I pay by my dues) for the dubs, so I have to consume them as well. But even worse are interviews with whatever foreign humans, politicians, sportsmen, artists. They do not hesitate for a second to turn OFF the original voice or reduce it to a whisper in the background only to have the German translation read over it. I HATE that. If they would only decide to use subtitles and leave the original untouched, but thats obviously against political interests, cause thats what they did 20 years ago and only ceased to do lately.

- or the leading ISPs. German Telekom and AOL (the German branch of course). What they sell their users as “the Internet” is really adventurous! Besides the fact that its difficult for the unexperienced user to actually leave their very own contents, they have to explicitly switch OFF the filter for German language pages or domains only!

So, whats the sense behind all that? Of course I acknowledge any language as being of cultural value worth being preserved. I’m not asking for one unified world language. All I’m asking for is to motivate people to see further than their own noses and not keeping them deliberately more dumb and blind than they choose to be themselves. There are idiots enough, who smell intermixture of cultures – the ultimate threat – in everything alien and scream alarm right away. Let them die out with time, I don’t care! Times have changed, and in my view nationalism (of ANY kind and flavor) is the wrong signal in these times. Not a single nation will survive the next 200 years on its own and with borders closed. I myself never felt “German”, its neither my merits nor a curse I was born as German, I never asked for it anyway. I am a citizen of Planet Earth.

(Yes, I DO know my English is far from being perfect, but, hey, at least I’m TRYING to improve)

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