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Grappling With the 'Complexities' of the German Language

January 02, 1988

William Tuohy's article gives the impression that German is extraordinarily difficult to learn and he seems to imply that this is the reason for its decline as an academic subject in high schools and colleges. Are the 90 million native speakers unusually gifted to master the "nightmarish complexity"? How about the nightmarish complexity of English spelling!

The article, unfortunately, helps to promote certain assumptions rather than examining them. It would have been more productive to ask how the study of German can be an asset: To start with, it is still the lingua franca in the central European countries; for a number of academic disciplines, German is an essential research tool; the Federal Republic of Germany is the No. 1 export country in the world; its trade with the United States is substantial; it is the most important NATO partner; more than 4 million U.S. soldiers have done military service there; almost half the U.S. Army right now is stationed in West Germany. From the United States' standpoint, the need for cross-cultural communications in German seems evident.

JUTTA BIRMELE

Long Beach

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