Speech about the motion of the AfD to amend the Constitution (Bill concerning the establishment of the German language as national language) (March 2, 2018)

Mr. President,

Colleagues,

Mr Brandner, I have to say that it is an impressive list of supporters you have submitted here.

(Applause from members of the AfD)

But this impressive list is not the reason for your motion. The actual reason for your motion is national self-insulation, and that needs to be said.

At this point, I would like to say that you have colleagues who have a particularly alpine affinity with Switzerland. This country has four official languages. Might that be the secret reason why you submitted this funny motion here?

(Applause from the SPD – Stephan Brandner (AfD): There are also referendums!)

Dear Colleagues, Mr. Brandner wishes us ‘courage’. I am not even translating that. I wish we had the courage to treat other languages ​​with respect rather than with fear.

(Applause from the SPD, the LEFT and the Alliance 90 / the Greens and from the members of the CDU / CSU and the FDP)

They want to highlight the value of the native language. My native language is Low German.

————————————-LOW GERMAN——————————

And when I became mayor of my own community I was at the time – as I am now – convinced that is it better also to be able to speak in Low German with the people that one represents.

(Applause from the SPD, the CDU/CSU, the FDP, the Left and the Alliance 90/The Greens and the Deputy Hansjörg Müller (AfD))

————————————LOW GERMAN——————————-

I’d like to say – perhaps you don’t want to hear the truth: it’s a kind of key qualification; we have to have a common language, so that we can talk to one another and understand one another.

(Applause from the SPD, the LEFT and the Alliance 90/the Greens)

————————————LOW GERMAN——————————-

And I’ve met people in Iowa, they’re 70 years old, they can speak Low German perfectly, but not a word of Standard German. These are well integrated Americans. And English didn’t suffer because they emigrated to America – I can assure you that.

(Applause from the SPD and the members of the CDU/CSU, the FDP, the Left and the Alliance 90/the Greens)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear colleagues, languages are valuable. I learned English at school. My teacher would say that I did not do it with pleasure. I would confirm that.

(Merriment of the members of the SPD)

But I am glad that I know it. Languages are changing. The German language is also changing, of course. Almost no one wants to speak in the same way as people used to speak in the Middle Ages. Ladies and Gentlemen, languages are evolving and that is a good thing.

(Applause from the SPD and the FDP, the Left and the Alliance 90/the Greens)

It’s not just German. It’s language diversity in the regions that makes up the value of the German language as a whole.

——————————LOW GERMAN——————————–

You act as if we need to fear that some might want to influence our language from outside.

(Applause from the members of the SPD)

——————————LOW GERMAN——————————–

German benefits from the fact that we are part of the world. Being part of the world is only possible if we can communicate and if we can speak the right language.

(Applause from the SPD, the CDU/CSU, the FDP, the Left, and the Alliance 90/the Greens)

President Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble:

Mr. Saathoff, apart from the fact that you should please make sure that we can all understand what you say.

(Laughter – Mahmut Özdemir (Duisburg) (SPD): We always understand our colleagues!)

I wanted to ask you if you would accept a question from colleague Spangenberg.

(Michael Grosse-Brömer (CDU/CSU): Only in Low-German!)

Johann Saathoff (SPD):

Mr. President, the AfD assumes that the quantity of their questions makes their work more valuable. The quality leaves much to be desired; we experienced that today. I will not allow a question.

(Applause from the SPD and the members of the Alliance 90/the Greens and the LEFT)

When you speak a foreign language, that does not mean that you can or must speak less German. The AfD says: Language is a cultural asset. I would say: Not only is the German language a cultural asset, but other languages are also cultural assets.

(Applause from the SPD, the LEFT and the Alliance 90/the Greens and the members of the CDU/CSU and the FDP)

Those who do not know foreign languages not only know nothing about their own language, they also know nothing about other countries, their people and what drives them. Those who do not know are fearful. And those who are fearful insulate themselves in and show nationalist tendencies. Where this leads, colleagues, we all know.

(Applause from the SPD and FDP, the LEFT and the Alliance 90/the Greens)

—————————————————LOW GERMAN—————————————–

Fear is also the basis for your political action, dear colleagues from the AfD. You pretend that something is being taken away from you when in fact something is being added. The opposite is true: Germany isn’t poorer because of other languages, Germany is richer. We must be proud of that.

(Applause from the SPD, the LEFT and the Alliance 90/the Greens and from the members of the CDU/CSU and the FDP)

Dear Colleagues, it is important to be understood. I do not care if the authors of the motion speak Low (German), German, English or Kiswahili. Hearing and understanding are two things, or as we say in East Frisia [LOW GERMAN]: I hear what you’re saying but I don’t understand you

(Applause from the SPD and members of the LEFT and the Alliance 90 / the Greens)

Finally, I would like to apologize wholeheartedly to the Stenographic Service. I promise improvement.

(Merriment and applause from the SPD, the CDU / CSU, the FDP, the LEFT and the Alliance 90 / the Greens and members of the AfD)

I thank the President for his understanding.

Thank you very much, dear colleagues.

(Applause from the SPD, the CDU / CSU, the FDP, the LEFT and the Alliance 90 / the Greens