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Study: Population of Saarland in Favor of Multilingualism and Promotion of French

Findings of Survey by Dr. Philipp Krämer from Freie Universität Berlin on State Government's Policy toward France Published in Saarbrücken

№ 139/2017 from May 30, 2017

According to a study by Freie Universität Berlin, the population of the Saarland would like to become more multilingual and would like to have the French language play a greater role in everyday life. The survey undertaken by Dr. Philipp Krämer from the Interdisciplinary Center "European Languages" at Freie Universität showed furthermore that about 62 percent of the respondents support the policy of the current government of the Saarland, consisting of a grand coalition between the CDU and SPD, toward France. They rated the government's policy as "good" or "rather good" while 38 percent rated it as "rather bad" or "bad." In general, people in the Saarland already have a good knowledge of French, which they utilize both for work and in private relationships.

A majority of the respondents of the survey, however, finds it unrealistic to think that the Saarland will become multilingual within one generation, i.e., around the mid-2040s, which is the aim of the state government. A clear majority of the respondents supports the government's policy toward France, but they are skeptical about its practical implementation as a whole. For example, a majority supported some of the planned measures such as bilingual street signs, bilingual child care centers, and a liaison office in Paris, but only about one third agreed with introducing French as one of the official languages of the Saarland.

The state government of the Saarland is working to establish French as the second official language of the state by introducing broad educational measures. The aim is to turn the Saarland into a "multilingual German-French region." In April almost 1200 Saarlanders of all age groups were questioned in this independent survey.

The findings indicate that approval for the government's policy toward France is highest in the border regions and especially in the state capital of Saarbrücken. In the northern part of the Saarland, on the other hand, a narrow majority rated the policy as negative. "Approval for the policy prevails in all the age groups, but for the age range between 30 and 50, it is less pronounced than among those over 50," says linguist Dr. Philipp Krämer and continues, "One reason could be that parents with school-age children are generally reluctant to react to changes in the school system." There were no conspicuous effects on other sociodemographic factors. Approval outweighs disapproval for all levels of education and in all employment groups.

The study does indicate, however, that the majority of the population does not consider the government's policy toward France to be personally relevant for them. "For many people it does not seem to be clear, how they could benefit from this policy," says Krämer. The respondents rated the participation of citizens in the implementation as inadequate.

The respondents were divided over the issue of how the implementation of the policy toward France should be financed: A relative majority feels the costs are adequate, while some individuals find it to be underfunded. Krämer notes that "It would be helpful to make the financing as a whole transparent and placed in relationship with other expenditures."

According to the survey, the respondents do not see a clear link between the government's policy toward France and maintaining the status of the Saarland as one of 16 separate federal states. "With this in mind, it is doubtful whether it is sensible to communicate that the policy toward France is a way to maintain the status of the Saarland as a separate federal state," says Krämer. However, the policy does seem to appeal more strongly to those who would like to see the Saarland maintain its status as a separate state. Those who advocate a fusion with another state are more likely to reject the policy toward more widespread use of French.

Dr. Philipp Krämer is a linguist at Freie Universität Berlin. He is from Homburg/Saar and studied French language and literature, political science, and European affairs at Freie Universität Berlin and the Institut d’Études Politiques in Strasbourg. He earned a doctorate in French linguistics. His main areas of research are language policy and multilingualism, attitudes to language and the social significance of languages, for example, in migration or colonialism. He also teaches Dutch linguistics and investigates contact situations in border areas of German and Romance languages. His main regional focus is on the Saar-Lor-Lux region between the Saarland, Luxembourg, and the northeastern French region Alsace-Lorraine and the Benelux region between Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, as well as French overseas territories.

The Interdisciplinary Center "European Languages" is made up of the various linguistic divisions at Freie Universität Berlin. Linguists in the areas of German, English, Romance languages, Dutch, and Turkic languages work together.

The Study

You may obtain a copy of the entire study as a PDF file by writing to the Office of News and Public Affairs, Freie Universität Berlin, or Dr. Philipp Krämer. It is available online on the homepage of the Saarländischer Rundfunk: www.sr.de/sr/home/nachrichten/panorama/studie_frankreichstrategie106.html

Further Information

Dr. Philipp Krämer, Interdisciplinary Center "European Languages," Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-52458, Email: philipp.kraemer@fu-berlin.de