Hustysk Helen svarar: Can’t Germans read and write?


helen hustysk

It is time for more “Explain Germany to me”. I got this, somewhat weirded-out, question:

“Recently I have seen commercials on television and advertising in the street that suggest: ‘Finally I learned to read and write properly, do it, too!’, exclaimed by a 50-year-old fellow that looks extremely pleased (wtf?) Can the German not read and write properly or what?”

Haha, was my initial response to this because of the funny wording. I am glad to report that the vast majority of Germans can read and write. There is, however, four to ten million so-called functional analphabets even in a country as well developed as Germany. (I tried to find numbers for Sweden, but it was so difficult I am starting to wonder if Sweden needs to conceal anything?!)

Functional analphabetism means that you do not have skills to manage anything beyond a very basic level. You can get by, but you have to use a lot of energy to hide your deficit. (It sounds like me and maths, probably I am a functional math-illterate?) Since four to ten million is still a significant number, the German state has decided to do campaigns that encourage people to seek help. They call the campaign, “Reading and Writing – My Key to the World” which I personally find very adequate and nice. And once you have gotten help and learned how to write, you become as pleased as the man above.

For the sake of completeness, I would also like to introduce you to an older campaign with the same purpose. The campaign, “Don’t write yourself off, learn to read and write!” went viral as we would say today when it was adapted by comedians. The original campaign showed a boss coming into a workplace and seeing that his employee has loaded stuff onto a trailer, something that is stated as forbidden on a board. The boss throws a fit, screaming, “How big do I have to write it?!” and the employee looks devastated until his colleague interrupts the superior. “Boss,  the guy can’t read”. The boss is shocked, saying that he never noticed all these years and that he wants to help the employee.

The parodies were set in different regions of Germany where strong dialects previal. The story was exactly the same, just that the employee didn’t know Berlin/East German/Bavarian/Low German. “Keene Fettbemmen” became winged words. Don’t write yourself off, learn East German!

***Hustysk Helen svarar – we answer your questions about Germany***book your Germanification today and receive a free Brezel***

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