How do you talk to strangers online

German in Senegal
"If you don't know foreign languages, you don't know anything about your own"

"Those who do not know foreign languages ​​do not know anything about their own", stated the famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his much-cited work Maximen und Reflexionen (1833). Such an approach, which speaks for multilingualism and the encounter between cultures, has lost none of its relevance today - on the contrary.

In the current context of human mobility, globalization and intercultural encounters, it is an undeniable advantage to be able to speak foreign languages. In view of this, new concepts and methods are constantly being developed in the field of foreign language didactics, which contribute to the better teaching of foreign languages.

Whether diplomat, literary scholar, historian, philosopher or researcher of whatever discipline: Anyone who speaks one or even several foreign languages ​​enjoys an advantage that should not be underestimated. The labor market is always more international, insofar as the exchange with partners from different countries is an important basis for economic development. For countries that strive for lasting economic development, the exchange with partners on the international level is inevitable. And Senegal is no exception to the rule.

The promotion of the teaching of a foreign language such as German by the Senegalese state contributes significantly to consolidating the relations that Senegal has with German-speaking countries. Those who torpedo these efforts run the risk of damaging bilateral cooperation in the long term.

The promotion of foreign languages ​​in general and German in particular can enable and facilitate fruitful international exchanges, especially in the economic and cultural field. After all, German is the language of one of the most economically powerful countries in the world. In addition, there is an exchange with German speakers beyond the German borders, namely in Austria, Switzerland, Lichtentstein, Belgium, Luxembourg etc.

The writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who developed an early interest in foreign countries, languages ​​and cultures, repeatedly encouraged Germans to learn foreign languages. “The German should learn all languages ​​so that no stranger is uncomfortable for him at home, but he is at home everywhere in a foreign country” (maxims and reflections). Shouldn't this idea also inspire other races? Or about the concept of the dialogue of cultures that Senegal's first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, advocated? His enthusiasm for the language of Goethe was so great that he introduced German lessons into the Senegalese school system. For Senegalese students this meant, on the one hand, access to other cultures through the medium of language and, on the other hand, an interdisciplinary coexistence of that language with other subjects such as philosophy, history, mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc. In all these areas a number of German scientists have achieved world-changing things .

According to a 2010 Korean study, language acquisition methodology, metaphorically speaking, is the oil that lubricates the brain to enable mathematical understanding. Was that the reason why Senghor insisted that the young Senegalese learn German in school, a modern language with declination? A language that has a good disposition for the acquisition of scientific and technological knowledge.

Let's stay in the field of education in Senegal. The LMD system, whose goals are strongly oriented towards student mobility, advocates the consideration of foreign languages ​​as important learning materials in the curricula of the universities of Senegal. Foreign languages ​​are a good means of guiding pupils and students towards the challenges of the LMD. In this respect, the introduction, maintenance and consolidation of foreign language teaching in general in the school system are still to be emphatically advocated.

Nevertheless, the Senegalese government decided to remove some foreign languages, including German, from the school curriculum. It would like to promote natural science subjects such as mathematics, physics and chemistry and give impulses for a more intensive engagement with technologies.

Due to a decree from 2014, which was only implemented in October 2016, the lessons in German, Italian and Russian will be canceled unilaterally and without any agreement, while Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic will be retained. While Italian and Russian teachers hardly protested, German teachers and their students took to the streets to loudly express their displeasure.

With success. Thanks to a collection of signatures, numerous press reports and demonstrations, the government was forced to withdraw the measure. The success is partly due to the fact that the number of German learners has grown steadily in recent years. More and more Senegalese students are enjoying scholarships from German institutions to conduct scientific research in Germany.

Senegal's German teachers have now invited the decision-makers to reflect together on the question of the importance of foreign languages ​​in promoting natural science subjects. In addition to German lessons, lessons in Italian and Russian are back. The biggest winner of the protest is the Senegalese school system as a whole. Hopefully the Senegalese government will issue a new decree for the official restoration of the abolished languages ​​and will now take steps to sustainably promote foreign language teaching.