Cambridge University draws criticism for ‘woke’ gender-neutral German curriculum


The University of Cambridge in the U.K. has encouraged students to implement “inclusive language” and “to use gender- and non-binary-inclusive language when we address or refer to students and colleagues, both in writing and in speech in English and in German.”

Some critics took aim at the move, believing the option from course managers for students to choose newer forms with plural German nouns is an attempt to make the gendered language more “woke,” according to The Times of London.

In writing, students can render feminine German nouns gender-neutral by placing an asterisk — or “gender star” — before the suffix.

Instructors also noted “in extended German texts grammatical structures can inhibit inclusivity … relative and other pronouns, for example, are obligatorily marked for grammatical gender, so going gender-free is difficult to achieve.”

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Oliver Baer, a Dortmund native who is a member of the German Language Association, predicted that any non-native German speakers who attempt to use the gender-neutral version “stand a good chance of making fools of themselves,” he told the Times of London.

Likening the Cambridge curriculum to a comedy sketch, Baer said, “My first reaction is it’s like Monty Python is back. It’s a minefield and I would hate to recommend to any Englishman to have to go through the details of all that.”

“I’d never pay £9,000 . . . I wouldn’t recommend that to anybody,” he added, referring to Cambridge’s tuition costs. “Language doesn’t evolve from the top down. Maybe you can do that in North Korea, but not in our society.”

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Baer said he and other members of the German Language Association believe their native language is being “abused,” and that people are “possessed by genitalia.”

‘If a non-native speaker came and tried to use gender-neutral German while on holiday here I think they would stand a good chance of making a fool of themselves. Fortunately we have no German word for ‘woke’, so we borrow it from the English,” he added.

Maren Pauli, who heads B2B didactics at the language-learning channel Babbel, told the outlet that “grammatical gender should not be mistaken with gender in general.”

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“If we talk about persons, like people, we only have two options to choose from,” she continued. “We have masculine and the feminine — if you would talk about any kind of professional, in German, if you use one single word — you have to decide whether you’re talking about a male teacher or a female teacher. There is no way in the German language to have it as neutral, as it is in English.”

“What’s happening is that it’s not inventing a new word, but it’s basically just mentioning both forms,” she added. “It’s just using what we already have in the language in a more reflective and flexible way to include everybody.”

A spokesman for the University of Cambridge told the Times: “As it clearly states on the faculty of modern and medieval languages and linguistics website, ‘students are free to choose for themselves how to engage with inclusive language when speaking and writing in German’. To suggest otherwise is entirely wrong.”

An option for Cambridge University students to use gender-neutral forms of German has drawn criticism from some who claims they are trying to make German ‘woke.’

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