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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 August, 2004, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Spelling revolt grips German press
German press graphic
German newspapers give much attention to the decision by the country's two most influential news publishers to ditch a spelling reform agreed on only eight years ago.

The Axel-Springer and Spiegel-Verlag publishing houses, which between them cater for 60% of the German population, said on Friday that the new rules had created a "state-ordered dyslexia".

They announced they would immediately return to the old style of spelling in their publications.

"Enough is enough," declares the main Axel-Springer title, the best-selling tabloid Bild. "We are going back to the good old method of spelling."

"Six years after its introduction, the bad spelling reform has finally run its course. Axel-Springer and Spiegel yesterday dealt the death-knell."


The two companies are not the first publishers to abandon the 1996 spelling rules, which included changing the spelling of many compound words and cutting the distinctive "sz" sound represented by a beta character.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung gave up on the new style only a year after introducing it. It sees the latest move as further vindication of that decision.

"The spelling reform has broken down. The move by Spiegel and Springer shows that with the best will in the world, it's just not working," the paper declares.

It describes the new rules as a "public disaster", saying their introduction had confused Germans so much that "parents write differently from their children, children write differently from the authors whose works they read at school and authors write differently from the newspapers and magazines in which they are printed."

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung has also declared its support for the latest move. The paper quotes its editor-in-chief, Hans Werner Kilz, as saying that "the new orthography has led to greater confusion, not greater clarity."

"Publishers are saying no to the new orthography - some sooner than others. At some point they will all go down that road," the paper notes.

"In the meantime it is the school children above all who have to suffer - and they won't understand why they are told off for doing things that are printed in black and white..."


But not all the papers agree. Several seem to suspect that the Bild campaign is more about cultivating brand loyalty.

The Frankfurter Rundschau detects "a whiff of populism" in the style of the campaign.

"At the house of Springer they have a good command of the German language - most of the time, at least," the paper observes.

The centre-left Berliner Zeitung feels that the renewed controversy over the spelling reform is simply a side-show diverting attention away from the problems of the German economy and reducing press coverage of the government's unpopular proposed welfare reforms.

"At last the Republic has an issue on which everyone has something to say, at last the reform of the job market is no longer the number one irritation," it says.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


Country profile: Germany
14 Jan 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Germany
20 Dec 03  |  Country profiles

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