English to be main language in schools

13th February 1998 at 00:00
AUSTRIA. Vienna City Council is to let state schools use English as the medium of general education, rather than just as a foreign language. Currently only the prestigious Vienna International School does this.

The scheme will start in three of the city's high schools this autumn. Subjects such as history, mathematics and biology will be taught in a combination of English and German. Students will be able to study literature and arts subjects in either language.

Kurt Scholz, a city councillor for education, said: "German has lost its natural monopoly as the language of instruction." He said the worlds of business and leisure were dominated by English.

The head of Vienna's department of high schools, said that even within Austria, English dominated popular films and music. "English is the language of youth culture," she said.

Meanwhile, attempts to make German easier to learn have run into strong opposition. Last year Austria joined Germany and Switzerland in promoting a simplified dictionary with easier spelling, removing illogical classical antecedents and avoiding some superfluous rules. It was also intended to be easier for those suffering from dyslexia.

The Supreme Court is due to hear two cases challenging the constitutional legality of the reforms and the influential Die Presse newspaper has refused to recognise the new dictionary. Last week proponents of the changes tried to diffuse the row by suggesting they could be made optional.

Teachers, who have started to introduce the simplified German in first-year primary classes, say the transition will cause chaos.

But educational psychologist Heinz Zangerle said that the changes were minimal and affected only 185 words in a basic vocabulary of 12,000.

Nigel Glass

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