Sprachrassismus at Work

76 posts in this topic

Hello guys,

 

I have been experiencing linguistic discrimination since the time I immigrated in Berlin.

At work it's becoming irritating and sometimes the situation can become so unpleasant that still affects me

even when I am home after work.

I'm always very tolerant towards this attitude because if I lose my cool and behave so aggressively and impolite like them, I lost already !

They start with "WAS!!!" and then they can become severely aggressive by expressing things like " Why don't you go back" "Why you didn't learn the language before you come"

"Foreigners are blah blah blah".

Before you start saying that I am against Germans,,,,,,, it also happens with individuals who are born in Germany and have a foreign background. That means with parents who don't speak German at all. So instead of understanding my position, they oppose.

I expressed my interest in learning the language from the first day and I never gave up. Even to this day I read books, Netflix always in German and I have non-German friends who are born in Berlin. I tell them that I came in my late 30's and I can't get rid of my accent, I just can't. I tried it. I can't become like them but I am willing to learn even more. But this discrimination kicks in very fast.

 

I am atheist, European, educated. All what Germans have ever dreamed of for us the foreigners. But some guy told me about the Integration-Paradox. Where you really integrate perfectly on every level and they still have problems with it. In other words, it seems as if they didn't want you here at all in the first place.

Linguistic discrimination happens a lot more in the public sector and a lot less in the private sector. That's what I noticed.

 

How do you guys deal with linguistic discrimination. We all have situations where in a sentence we use the wrong word. Is it well tolerated ? Does it have to do with the working environment and the educational level of the people? (I work at the airport, where xenophobia is a major problem with "US" and "THEY" kind of mentality).

Do you report it or afraid of making things even worse ?

 

Thanks

 

 

 

 

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" Does it have to do with the working environment and the educational level of the people? (I work at the airport). "

No, it's the place you are working..Berlin.

Berliner are known for their aggressive language.

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49 minutes ago, Fokrey said:

I have been experiencing linguistic discrimination since the time I immigrated in Berlin.

 

Although I have experienced it a few times, I find it actually quite rare.

 

Quote

I can't get rid of my accent, I just can't. I tried it.

 

Have you tried Aussprache Training? I took a few classes at the VHS with a really great instructor and it helped.

 

BTW, I can recommend this course: 

https://www.vhsit.berlin.de/VHSKURSE/BusinessPages/CourseDetail.aspx?id=579995

 

Quote

How do you guys deal with linguistic discrimination.

 

I've been known to ridicule the German language when I get frustrated and usually have the sympathy of my German colleagues. 

 

 

 

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I don't face language discrimination because my accent is "perfect" (so I am told, and am inclined to accept that evaluation at this point) which was simple luck.  I did not work at it at all but am a trained musician which might have helped.

 

Your working German is probably better than mine and if you really spend so much time watching German Netflix and talking with German-speaking friends, your vocabulary is probably a lot better too.

 

I have been long aware that I am the beneficiary of accent discrimination.  I get the benefit of the doubt when I say something incorrectly, people are more patient when I'm speaking and I get more respect.  It is not fair, especially when I think how others are treated who have worked really, really hard on their German but cannot shake the accent.  I know people who are terrified to have to speak in public because even though their working German is more than sufficient, proficient even, the second they start speaking in an accent they have already lost respect.  Even if they are European-looking (which I am not).  It's crazy.

 

I don't know what to tell you except that you are not imagining things and it is not fair.  Some assholes are simply always going to be disrespectful of anyone who speaks with an accent.  I don't know what you can do about it.  If they had any interest in showing respect and civility for others, they wouldn't act in this prejudiced way toward you in the first place.  They have probably behaved this way their entire life.  Can you change it?  Maybe on a case by case basis, you can bring it up to them in a way that lets them know that you are there and working just like they are and you are all equals and you would like to be treated as such.  But I really don't know.  Sorry to hear you are going through this.

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But no, don't "report" them, like to the boss or something, that will just make things worse IMO.  Germans prefer to deal with things directly in person.  In other places it is maybe more common to have a superior mediate in situations like this but I feel going above their heads to complain will just get you even further ostracized from the rest of the group.  Plus, they will respect you more if you speak to them directly.

 

Chances are that they will be shocked you said anything to them about it all.  Maybe they will deny it, or say they were "joking".  In my experience these kinds of people will back down very quickly if you get in their face a little bit and politely but firmly ask them what their problem is.  My two cents.

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9 minutes ago, dessa_dangerous said:

But no, don't "report" them, like to the boss or something, that will just make things worse IMO.  Germans prefer to deal with things directly in person.  In other places it is maybe more common to have a superior mediate in situations like this but I feel going above their heads to complain will just get you even further ostracized from the rest of the group.  Plus, they will respect you more if you speak to them directly.

 

Chances are that they will be shocked you said anything to them about it all.  Maybe they will deny it, or say they were "joking".  In my experience these kinds of people will back down very quickly if you get in their face a little bit and politely but firmly ask them what their problem is.  My two cents.

Yes this seems reasonable. But it can get more complicated. Like setting up a situation in a way that will make you lose your job and using this kind of discrimination is the weapon of choice. It's the best weapon they can employ to highlight your weakness. I've seen a few people losing their jobs like this and I don't want to end up like the others. Tolerance has saved me. It is just that the others didn't tolerate this constant pressure and once they stood up for their dignity they lost, immediately.

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My 2 cents for you - Grow a thicker skin or put big boy pants.

 

I was in your shoes...

 

Just ignore them, otherwise you have to lose.

I came here when I was 40 years old, I'll never learn perfect German or without accent.

At least I can do my job and be the best at what I do at my company, like this they can choose, a German speaker or a better worker.

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Then again you can have some fun with the locals, like speaking a really heavy Bavarian dialect in Hamburg, or Platt in Munich, or (my best yet) Swabian in Switzerland.

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My accent is very strong and I am not going to do "training" to change it.

 

Germans who move to other parts of Germany also stand out (such as, a Bavarian moving to Berlin or a Sachse moving to Nuremberg), but they never even try to speak like the locals do. So, I assume they can experience language discrimination, too.

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26 minutes ago, yourkeau said:

My accent is very strong and I am not going to do "training" to change it.

 

Germans who move to other parts of Germany also stand out (such as, a Bavarian moving to Berlin or a Sachse moving to Nuremberg), but they never even try to speak like the locals do. So, I assume they can experience language discrimination, too.

 

This. 

 

I have a strong American accent. Is my German perfect? No. But I’ve told many times that my German is good and I lack confidence. I’ve been studying it for about twenty years, but I still lack confidence. I started in 2001 in the US at about 23. I also have anxiety, so it’s a personality thing. 

I will say I’m getting really good at bureaucracy in Germany, so that’s a plus. 

I can’t change my accent. I’m not one of those people. There is some study that says language learning slows down after 15. I forget which linguist said it. 

 

The OP says he is European. I find they tend to have certain stereotypes of different countries. I have a Polish last name, I am American, and I get all types of looks because they can’t figure where I’m from with my accent and name. But they are very quick to notice that I have a foreign last name. 

 

I wouldn’t say anything. Just save yourself the trouble. I would, however, look into getting legal insurance now... 

 

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1 hour ago, yourkeau said:

My accent is very strong and I am not going to do "training" to change it.

 

Germans who move to other parts of Germany also stand out (such as, a Bavarian moving to Berlin or a Sachse moving to Nuremberg), but they never even try to speak like the locals do. So, I assume they can experience language discrimination, too.

Hearing Sächsisch will make any white blue blooded Bavarian cringe, come to think of it hearing Fränkisch will make any white blue blooded Bavarian cringe, hearing Schwäbisch will make any white blue blooded Bavarian cringe. In fact any dialect apart from Bairisch will make any white blue blooded Bavarian cringe.

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Thanks guys. It was eye opening knowing about your experiences in Germany. The stereotypes Germans have about other European countries are so outdated. More like back in the 60's.

To be honest, Europeans are strongly and highly educated people with Uni-degrees but Germans are stuck to Ausbildungen... In the company I work for I am the only worker with a Master's Degree and when they opened a position in the higher Management they gave it to a school dropout. I mean, he didn't even finish primary school and no, he is not naturally talented, he is just German. When I complained to the boss about it he didn't give a rational explanation. They even told me I won't be interviewed despite the fact that I applied for the position. Then I somehow gave up trying to beat this mentality and now looking for a new company in these Covid-19 times.

I know it has to do with the fact that I got too much negative press in the beginning as far as the language is concerned. Once they found out I have a Masters they went paranoid and crazy. They just associated my German language skills to my educated level. I am happy to disappoint them.

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6 hours ago, yourkeau said:

Germans who move to other parts of Germany also stand out (such as, a Bavarian moving to Berlin or a Sachse moving to Nuremberg), but they never even try to speak like the locals do. So, I assume they can experience language discrimination, too.

Yes, if you want to call it discrimination - which most of us Germans wouldn´t. Of course, coming from Franconia I´ll stand out in other parts of the country due to my dialect. So what. I even like a bit of banter.

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You will never really get rid of your foreign accent and it's nothing to be ashamed of and a university degree doesn't necessarily make you a better speaker. There are many examples of uneducated people learning to speak a foreign language almost faultlessly even though they cannot even read and write. They mimic (small children learn their mother tongue in this way). Some people are simply more talented than others picking up accents. I have experienced this with adults of various nationalities during conversation courses. Even my young German Nachhilfe pupils in English have varying degrees of talent accent wise. Some of them have very thick German accents and others only slightly. 

 

The other day I was discussing a reciple with my Philippine daughter-in-law. We were speaking German. She had brought a dessert along and was trying to explain one of the main ingredients and for the life of me I couldn't make out what it was supposed to be until finally the penny dropped. The ingredient was Speisestärke (cornflour), but she pronounced it spicy starky. Her English is better than her German, but she didn't know the English word. It wasn't until I switched to English mode in my mind that I realised she was pronouncing the word as an English speaker would. 

 

By the way, Germans themselves are often the subject of ridicule because of their German accents when speaking English, whether in comedy sketches, war films and even on this forum. 

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14 minutes ago, bramble said:

By the way, Germans themselves are often the subject of ridicule because of their German accents when speaking English, whether in comedy sketches, war films and even on this forum. 

 

Came here to say this.   People complain that they are criticizing their German are normally the same people who make fun of Germans speaking English.   How most Germans can't pronounce the 'a' when it is the 'ae' phoneme and so on.   I am South American and I can say I had had more English speaking people making fun of my English accent in my life than Germans making fun of my German.

 

In the (Hollywood) movies the German character always speaks with an exaggerated accent when speaking English.  And even here in TT there has been threads dedicated to make fun of "Ze Germans".

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My daughter is German and she speaks perfect English (of course) however she speaks German sounding English in a Lancashire dialect. I don´t know how she does it but it cracks me up. 

The twist is that she talks to my granddaughter in English from time to time and I am noticing the same Lancashire intonations from her too.

Is this is how languages evolve?

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A German friend is married to an Irishman, and listening to her speak English with an almost perfect Irish accent (but very slightly German) is brilliant. Now I shall try to create a situation where I can hear her daughter to see if the same thing is going on with them.

 

My husband worked many years ago with a German copper who spoke Liverpudlian English - it's so incongruous, it's delicious :lol:

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Guys, children are children and if the situation allowed they could even learn Japanese with Chinese and Cantonese with all accents involved.

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