How important are dialects in your country

Dialect - advantage or disadvantage?

Dialect - advantage or disadvantage?

Author: Terese Schimmer

Dialects are dying out. Baden-Württemberg's Prime Minister Kretschmann wants to strengthen dialects in schools. What speaks for it and what against it?

According to a survey by the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy, the proportion of dialect speakers in East Germany fell from 41 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2008; in western Germany in the same period from 28 to 24 percent.

But why are dialects dying out?

Three factors seem to play a role: mothers, media and mobility.

Some mothers speak High German with their children so that it is easier for them in school and not perceived as less educated.

With the introduction of radio, Standard German was also brought to areas where previously only dialect was spoken. Linguist Kleiner is of the opinion that uniform media language has an influence on what is viewed as exemplary.

Furthermore, increasing mobility seems to play a role in the death of the dialects. People are increasingly moving away from their hometowns, even to places where the native dialect is not spoken. They also come into more contact with people from other regions - also through the media - which is why a common language base - Standard German - is important for understanding.

Nowadays there are divided opinions about the meaning of dialects.

For many people, dialect is no longer important and is associated with associations such as “village idiots”. Others associate dialect with home and see dialects as an important part of their identity.

Studies have shown that speaking dialects can have disadvantages. It has been shown that dialect speakers are assigned a lower level of competence. Depending on the study, different explanations are provided for this. On the one hand, dialects seem to activate stereotypes in the listener, such as the above-mentioned "village idiot", which then leads to the speaker being devalued. Other researchers explain the phenomenon with the fact that the processing speed for dialects is slower and therefore more difficult to understand.

Even people who know that such an effect exists, attribute dialect speakers with a strong dialect a lower level of competence. The effect could only be eliminated with a weak dialect. The investigation of this phenomenon in practice has shown that in application processes with the same qualifications, the applicant who does not speak a dialect is chosen. To compensate for this disadvantage, some employees nowadays also take advantage of the offer of language trainers.

These points could suggest that speaking a dialect is generally associated with disadvantages. However, it has also been shown that dialects are associated with advantages.

Many children these days grow up with standard German and dialect. According to brain and language researchers, this resembles a bilingual development. It could be shown that these children have a better understanding of language, which is accompanied by an easier learning of foreign languages.

If you ask dialect speakers what the dialect means to them, it turns out that dialect is an important part of identity for most of them. The dialect - the common language in a certain region - leads to connectedness and a sense of belonging.

So what can we take away from this?

Dialects are not good or bad. Dialects have both advantages and disadvantages. For some, they seem to be an important cultural asset and identity. In order to eliminate possible disadvantages, it seems to be most advantageous for dialect speakers to be able to speak High German as well. Positive effects, such as improved language skills, speak in favor of growing up bilingual with standard German and dialect.


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