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Expert in the spotlight in 2012: Reinhard Goltz

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Featured Expert / Area of focus

Dr. Reinhard Goltz is manager /director of the Institut für niederdeutsche Sprache (INS) in Bremen, Germany. The INS is a supra-regional institution for the preservation and promotion of the Low German language and literature. Reinhard Goltz is working and has been working in numerous organisations and bodies related to the Low German language. He is member of the advisory council Low German at the Schleswig-Holsteinischen Landtag. Since 2002 spokesman of the Bundesraat för Nedderdüütsch (Low German). 

His working areas are: Education, literature, media, dictionaries, language policy.

Face to face with Reinhard Goltz

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/multilingualism?

I grew up on Finkenwerder, a traditional island of fishermen. It struck me then that a number of people spoke nothing but Low German, and the others didn’t. In fact I learnt the language properly during my studies at university (English and German). This personal approach has been complemented by a sociological one: Within only one generation the Low German language has lost half of its speakers. The regional language of Northern Germany is endangered. This situation has given me the impulse to involve with a lot of activities: We founded a political arm of the Low German movement and launched projects for more Low German in education, in the media or in culture. Always being aware of the fact that first of all the speakers themselves are responsible for the future of their language, but that they do need support from the state. Language awareness in Northern Germany has been developing, although this process is still a very slow one.

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?

There are 2.5 million speakers of Low German, but they settle in an area four times as big as the Netherlands, with no specific language area in which they dominate. For centuries the Low German speakers have been told that their language was less capable and even less worth than Standard German. Many people still keep this idea in their minds, and it is difficult to get those speakers to actually use their language, and to use it outside their family zone. The lack of language confidence turns out to be a mental problem which can only be solved in the long run.
And then: The language itself has obviously lost a great number of its typical features, by adapting feature from Standard German. Of course languages do change, and they must be able to develop  a vocabulary fitting our modern world. But the changes concerning Low German structures have occurred within a very short time. We have to work on language awareness, focussing also in the special character of Low German and its differences from the Standard.

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?

In the last couple of years we have launched a number of projects that still need to be accompanied. In 2010 Hamburg has started a curriculum for Low German as a school subject. This can serve as a model in other regions (Bundesländer), Kindergarten work is increasing, a good range of advanced training has been established. The INS is involved in “platt sounds”, a competition for young musicians and bands singing in Low German. On our homepage we have just started to present the project “talking map” where you can listen to the proper pronunciation of Low German place names. The biggest project: Together with a friend I have been writing on a history of Low German literature from 1945 until now – we aim at finishing in 2012.

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention? 

Some interesting activities can be found in the internet: is a platform for young people who want to learn Low German. Here you can look at and listen to the band contest 2011: This is where you hit young music: and For information about what’s going on within the Low German culture: and The site for political issues is:

Do you have any questions on these topics?

Ask Reinhard

Featured topic

Our focus this month lies on Low German.