The German Language Column

Word! The language column © Goethe-Institut e. V./Illustration: Tobias Schrank

How does one find one's way around the rules of the German language, where do new words come from, and what are the most important changes in the use of the language - for example, due to digitalisation and a higher sensitivity due to the gender issue? These and other exciting topics are the focus of our column about the German language.

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

8th season: Hauke Hückstädt

Hauke Hückstädt
Hauke Hückstädt | © Büro Schramm
Hauke Hückstädt, born in 1969 in Schwedt, Brandenburg, and now based in Frankfurt am Main, has been director of Frankfurt’s Literaturhaus (“House of Literature”) since 2010. Before that, he worked for a number of years at Hanover’s Literarischer Salon and Göttingen’s Literarisches Zentrum. He is also active as an editor, critic, jury member and lecturer, and advises authors on PR matters for selected publishers. A member of the German Book Prize jury in 2019, Hückstädt is also chairman of the board and spokesman for the network of Literaturhäuser in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

A thin row of symbols with a book in the center © Tobias Schrank

7th season: Nora Gomringer

Nora Gomringer
Nora Gomringer | © Judith Kinitz
Nora Gomringer, born 1980, is both a German and a Swiss, poet and performer. She writes for radio and television, conceives films, plays and libretti. She has received many awards for her work and is constantly expanding her oeuvre. Nora Gomringer is the director of the “Künstlerhaus des Freistaates Bayern”, which is located in Bamberg as the “Internationales Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia”.

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6th season: Henning Lobin

Henning Lobin
Henning Lobin | © PTG/Jochen Kratschmer
Henning Lobin, born in 1964, has been Scientific Director and Chairman of the Board of the Leibniz Institute for the German Language in Mannheim and Professor of German Linguistics at the university of Mannheim since 2018. His new book Sprachkampf (language battle) on current language policy debates was published in mid-March 2021.

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5th season: Olga Grjasnowa

Olga Grjasnowa
Olga Grjasnowa | © Valeria Mitelman
Olga Grjasnowa was born in 1984 in Baku, Azerbaijan, and is one of Germany’s most admired young authors. She spent many years living in Poland, Russia, Israel, and Turkey, and her celebrated debut novel All Russians Love Birch Trees was awarded the Klaus-Michael Kühne Prize and the Anna Seghers Prize. Her latest publications are Die Macht der Mehrsprachigkeit and Der verlorene Sohn. All her novels have been adapted for the stage and translated into several languages. Olga Grjasnowa lives with her family in Berlin.

4th season: Sharon Dodua Otoo

Sharon Dodua Otoo (*1972 in London) is an author and a political activist.  

Sharon Dodua Otoo
Sharon Dodua Otoo | © Tahir Bella
She writes prose and essays and is editor of the English-language book series “Witnessed” (edition assemblage). In 2017 her first novellas “the things i am thinking while smiling politely“ and “Synchronicity” were published in German translation by S. Fischer Verlag. Otoo won the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2016 with the text “Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin”. In 2020 her inaugural speech at the Festival of German Language Literature “Dürfen Schwarze Blumen Malen?” was published by Verlag Heyn. Her first novel in German “Adas Raum” will be published in February 2021 by S. Fischer Verlag. Otoo is politically active with the Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland e. V. and Phoenix e. V. She lives with her family in Berlin.

 © Tobias Schrank

3rd season: Hernán D. Caro

Hernán D. Caro
Hernán D. Caro | © Jana Burbach
Hernán D. Caro, born 1979 in Bogotá, Colombia, has been living in Germany for about twenty years. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the Humboldt University of Berlin and is a freelance contributor to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAZ) and freelance editor of the art magazine Contemporary and América Latina (C&AL) and the Goethe-Institut’s Humboldt magazine in South America. He was nominated for a Theodor Wolff Prize for German journalism in 2020 for his essay “Deutschland – Ein  Annäherungsversuch".

Zwischenüberschrift Thomas Böhm © Tobias Schrank

2nd season: Thomas Böhm

Thomas Böhm
Thomas Böhm | privat
Thomas Böhm, born 1968 in Oberhausen in the Rhineland, is a mediator for literature and cultural journalist. He has curated the guest appearances of Iceland (2011), Switzerland (2014) and Norway (2019) at the book fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig. His most recent publications are the radio plays for the television series “Babylon Berlin” and - together with Carsten Pfeiffer - “Die Wunderkammer der deutschen Sprache” (i.e., The cabinet of curiosities of the German language).

Zwischenbalken © Tobias Schrank

1st season: Kathrin Kunkel-Razum

Kathrin Kunkel-Razum
Kathrin Kunkel-Razum | privat
Kathrin Kunkel-Razum (born 1959 in Potsdam) studied German and history in Leipzig, where she did her PhD in German linguistics. She has been on Duden’s editorial staff since 1997 and editor-in-chief since 2016, so she’s in charge of Duden’s whole range of dictionaries and grammar guides. She is also a member of the German Spelling Council, which develops spelling rules and issues recommendations for state institutions. Since 2020 she is also a member of the Goethe-Institut's advisory board for Literature and Translation Grant Programme Department. She lives in Berlin.