Language push aimed at Turks;Briefing;International

12th February 1999 at 00:00

Inner-city schools are under pressure to improve their teaching of German and to do more to help immigrants integrate into society.

New rules are to make it easier for people to become naturalised German citizens or to get dual citizenship. They also mean automatic German nationality for all new citizens' children.

The rules are set out in a Bill which the German parliament is expected to pass this year, but state interior ministers have demanded that it be strengthened to include a German language test as a condition of naturalisation.

This could be a problem because recent studies show second-generation Turkish migrants speak no better German than their parents.

Even the liberal-leaning Barbara John, Berlin commissioner for foreigners, has said that, if Turkish youngsters are to be naturalised, their parents should be banned from sending them back to Turkey for schooling.

Turkish families fear their children, particularly girls, will forget their cultural roots if they spend their childhood in Germany.

In the 1960s and 1970s, when most Turkish workers came to Germany without their families there were fewer Turkish children in the schools. The ones who were there learned their new language through immersion. Now a strong national network and the presence of Turkish grandmothers in the home means many children do not learn German until they start school.

In some inner-city schools, the entire first and second grade is made up of immigrant children whose mother tongue is not German. In Berlin's working-class districts of Kreuzberg and Wedding, non-German-speaking children make up 80 per cent of classes.

Last April, a raft of measures to improve the teaching of German as a second language were approved, with classes in day-care centres and in after-school clubs.

Classes for immigrant mothers are to be expanded. In some Berlin schools, mothers can learn German beside their children.

Last October, under an inner-city initiative in Berlin, the first bilingual "integration assistants" were sent into Turkish homes to help prepare migrant families with pre-school children for German-language instruction in schools. Mothers and grandmothers take part in the classes.

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