The multicultural community in Germany is wide and vast, with the Turks commanding number one in size and influence. The recent issue being debated is language.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan stirred feathers and launched a debate in Germany when he said, “our children must learn German, but first they must learn Turkish.” Chancellor Angela Merkel made international headlines a few months ago with her statement: “Multikulti ist absolut gescheitert” – Multiculturalism has utterly failed. Much of her argument revolves around learning German in order to cope in school and take advantage of opportunities in the labor market.
For many immigrants, communicating with their children in a second language that they do not fully dominate is not an option. As heard in a focus group I once attended, “it feels like you are not connecting with your children.” And that is exactly the reasoning for the opposing argument. People can more deeply connect and engage in a way that’s only possible with a common language.
Germany is not a pluralistic society and the language debate is certainly a valid one, but to say multiculturalism has utterly failed is extreme. As an expat living in Germany for the past five years, I see the beauty of multiculturalism all around me.
Politically, we have a women leading the country, a Turk co-chairing the Green party, a Vietnamese heading the ministry of health, and an openly gay foreign minister/vice chancellor and mayor of the country’s capital. Culturally, Germans are consuming döners nearly as much as schnitzels and some of the most successful entertainers in Germany do not have German surnames. And finally, as a mother of a 3 year old, I see multiculturalism at its best in Kindergarten. German, Italian, Turkish, Croatian, Pakistani, American kids are playing in the sandbox without the distraction of the color of their skin, language or religion. They all speak perfect German but many automatically switch to another language when their parents pick them up.
These fully bilingual kids are the future of Germany and proof that multiculturalism can work. Let’s not put them in different sandboxes as they grow up.