Swabian English

What’s with the politicians in Germany? Yesterday was the first day of Merkel’s new government, and it includes Guido Westerwelle, who can’t manage diplomacy even at a press conference, as foreign minister, and Wolfgang Schäuble, who forgot he had some of Schreiber’s slush money in his drawer and thinks torture is ok to extract information, as minister of finance.

At least Swabia is kicking its politicians out. Günther Oettinger, the former Swabian premier, a man who denied Hans Filbinger was a Nazi, has now been sent to Brussels, joining that other German premier the Germans wanted out of the country, Edmund Stoiber. You might enjoy this reminder of the Oettinger-Filbinger embarassment:

Now, I hear Oettinger is taking English lessons. Better late than never? What are his chances of actually reaching a level that will suffice for international diplomacy? My husband (who is Swabian) is skeptical. “Swabians can’t speak English,” he says. As an English teacher I tend towards professional optimism, and I know: where there’s a will, there’s a way! (It helps to know Swabians who speak great English.) But the problem is really more fundamental, as Hermann Scheer says, because like most Swabians, Oettinger doesn’t speak German, so interpreters won’t be able to translate what he says! (“Wie alle Schwaben kann er bekanntlich kein Deutsch und kein Dolmetscher kann ihn daher in andere Sprachen übersetzen.”)

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Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

7 thoughts on “Swabian English”

  1. Nur net hudle!

    (That’s about as far as my Swabian goes, even though I spent time at the Uni Augsburg, where students would compare notes on which Eck they came from, it all being Allgäu or Schwaben to me, but for them a world of important differences.)

  2. I hear you, Mark :) When were you in Augschburg?

    When I was looking for a university in Germany, I decided on Konstanz, thinking it would be quite international in feeling, lying right on the border to Austria and Switzerland and not too far from France. Little did I know that the cultural dividing lines were Swabia, Baden and Switzerland, and that they would make the San Andreas Fault look like a crack in the sidewalk!

    BTW, my friends from the Swabian Alb would have said “no et hudle”. (For the uninitiated, that means something like “Slow down, take it easy.”)

  3. Hi Filbert,

    His behavior became a little errant in 2005, when he was supposed to become Minster for Economic Affairs for Merkel, but suddenly decided to stay in Bavaria. Nobody was more surprized than his own party, the CSU. He had been stealing everbody’s sunshine for quite some time. They didn’t necessarily want him out of the country, but his party just didn’t want him to be too active in politics anymore.

    Background: The CSU is the local, Bavarian conservative party. Since Bavaria is such a rich and important state, controlled for all practical purposes by the CSU, the party carries a lot of weight in Berlin. But it’s always considered a bit … provincial. Stoiber led the conservative party ticket (CDU/CSU) in the national elections a few years back – and lost.

    There was also a very entertaining and timely scandal to do with a rather attractive representative from Fürth, Pauli, who criticized him. He had her spied on, trying to ruin her reputation, and that disclosure showed him for the controlling tyrant he was, and served as an excuse to see him off. (See, for instance, http://www.focus.de/politik/deutschland/landraetin-pauli_aid_121941.html)

    Democracy works in strange ways sometimes: A politician is “retired” to the next “higher” political institution.
    It’s a pity, actually, that Brussels isn’t really taken seriously.
    Or maybe it is.
    What do you think?

    About Stoiber himself: You sort of have to like him. For one thing, he was good for Bavaria, no doubt, as his recipe, “Laptop & Lederhosen”, is pretty unbeatable. And then we miss his wooden demeanor. I’m convinced that he modelled his body language on wooden puppets, which enjoy a vibrant tradition here in Bavaria. I like this humorous portrait of him from about 2006:

    I hope that answers your question. If not, pose another :).
    And maybe someone else sees things quite differently.

  4. I don’t know but it looks all pretty standard “politician stuff”.
    I remember being asked as a student to write an essay “we get the government we deserve”.
    At the time i thought it was an outrage to say it was our fault.
    Now, well……..Mae West for chancellor!!!

  5. Hi Chris,

    That’s why there are changes in government from time to time, thank heaven, right? But both Bavaria and Swabia are rich states in a rich country, and while things are going well it seems voters allow the parties to do pretty much whatever they like. When I asked my students at the uni recently whether they were going to vote in the elections, about half said no. Now we’ve got a more conservative government, wonder how they like that.
    At least these “down home” parties, with their intricate ongoing personnel intrigues, tend to breed entertaining characters. Political soap operas, really.
    Speaking of which: Mae West? A female Berlusconi!

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