Berlin police officers must speak German during shifts, state ministry requests

In response to questioning by the far-right AfD, Berlin's Interior Ministry has requested police speak German at work. But it has stressed that the ability to speak other languages is generally helpful.

The Berlin Interior Affairs Ministry on Wednesday requested that the city's police officers do not communicate with each other in foreign languages while on duty, in response to a parliamentary question by the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

"The use of a foreign language between officers in the course of their duties was occasionally recognized by superiors," it admitted in a statement (PDF).

The police force's official language is German and officers know this, the statement stressed. The use of German forms "the basis for good, transparent and trusting cooperation" within the agency, the ministry said.



In the US, kindergarten marks the entry of children into the formal education system. Held at elementary schools, it is a prepartory year before first grade. In Germany, however, kindergarten is more along the lines of pre-school, giving younger children an opportunity to play and socialize with each other. The term translates literally as "garden for children."



When a lookalike is so convincing that you think you're seeing double, you're probably dealing with a doppelgänger. The idea of doppelgängers has featured in literature for millennia and has fueled an entire section of showbiz with "tribute acts." The German word literally translates as "double goer."



What's better than winning? When it happens at your adversary's expense, it admittedly can fill you will an extra portion of of glee and "schadenfreude." This German concept (literally, "damage joy") refers to happiness about someone else's misfortune. It is a cornerstone of German humor - but be careful how much you laugh about your opponent, because karma might just come back to bite you.



While Mozart was a child prodigy, he and other young geniuses are often referred to in English with the German "wunderkind" ("miracle child"). Many parents may believe their toddler is a "wunderkind" - but the Mozarts, Pascal Blaises and Bobby Fishers of the world truly are in a class of their own.



Not just a popular movie franchise from the 1980s, "poltergeist" actually means "clatter ghost," as in making a racket. Those with a penchant for the supernatural would describe a poltergeist as a ghost that haunts a particular place to establish communication with the real world. However, the German term does not have to be sinister; fairytales in Germany also portray friendly poltergeists.



A repeated theme in music or literature can be referred to as a leitmotif. Translated literally, it means a leading motif or idea. Without this kind of repetition, narratives would largely be aimless and unfocused, melodies pointlessly meandering, and movies would lack a sense of direction. Leitmotifs reward our attention spans and allow creative work to carry meaning and purpose.



With many of the early pioneers in the field of psychology hailing from central Europe, a series of German terms have found their way into everyday parlance in English. Sigmund Freud contributed to the usage of the term "angst," meaning "fear." However, in casual usage, English speakers use angst to refer to existential anxiety, while the non-technical German usage is more banal.



Mostly used as a military term in English, "Blitz" actually means lightning in German. During World War II, the Nazis invented the compound word "Blitzkrieg" (literally, lightening war) to refer to their tact of concentrated and forceful attacks. These kind of strategies would perhaps nowadays be best described as "shock and awe," as "Blitzkrieg" has come to represent Nazi tactics only.



Are you able to predict trends before they go mainstream? If so, then it would appear that you have your finger on the pulse of the "zeitgeist." The most straight-forward translation of this abstract concept is perhaps "spirit of the times," but zeitgeist implies more than just that, referring to the current mood in all realms of culture.



Your boyfriend didn't break up with you, your boss is treating you well, and your bank account is looking better than ever before - yet you feel melancholy. If that's the case, you might be experiencing what the French call "ennui" and Germans "Weltschmerz." The "pain of the world" might be getting to you.

"When this transparency is not ensured in certain cases by the use of a foreign language, such behavior must be addressed and openly stopped by superiors or colleagues," the ministry statement continued.

Read more: Muslims 'integrate' well into Germany - but aren't accepted

Foreign languages desirable

But it stressed that knowledge of foreign languages was generally desirable for police officers "because they could be helpful in contact with tourists and other foreigners."

Up to a third of people living in Berlin have a migration background and the make-up of new recruits in the Berlin police force deliberately matches that. According to the Senate, about 29 percent of new police officers had a foreign background in 2015, with the largest group coming from Turkish families, followed by people with Polish roots.

Other backgrounds included Eastern European, Asian and Arab roots, the report noted.

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The issue came to light when AfD politician Hans-Joachim Berg asked State Secretary of Interior Affairs Torsten Akmann whether the Senate was aware that police officers were speaking "non-German" in front of their colleagues during shifts. A series of follow-up questions focused on the German ability of new recruits and whether use of the German language had decreased.

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According to Akmann, it did not appear that the ability to speak German had declined in recent years.


Ich habe Jetlag und brauche Schlaftabletten.

"I have jetlag and need sleeping pills." Depending on where you're coming from, jetlag can be fierce when you arrive in Germany. Fortunately, pharmacies can be found on nearly every corner here. (They're separate shops and are not located inside supermarkets or drug stores.) Just look for a sign with a big red "A" for "Apotheke."


Ich übernachte in einer Airbnb-Wohnung im Hipster-Viertel.

"I'm spending the night in an Airbnb apartment in the hipster neighborhood." Keep this phrase especially handy for Berlin. While the house rental service has taken flak among locals for driving up rents in the capital, it's still a popular option for visitors. Looking for the hipster neighborhoods? Try Kreuzberg or the northern part of Neukölln.


Lohnt es sich, Neuschwanstein zu besuchen?

"Is it worth visiting Neuschwanstein?" Sure, sometimes it's fun to play the tourist - and yes, the Bavarian castle is worth a trip during the less busy off-season. But when you're in Germany, be sure to spend some time away from the sights. Take a long walk on the Rhine River in Cologne, mingle with the locals in a corner kebab joint in Hamburg, or learn to surf in Munich's English Garden.


Ich hätte gerne einen Latte Macchiato mit Sojamilch.

"I'd like a latte with soy milk." Yes, gourmet coffee drinks have arrived in Germany, too. For vegans, hipsters and lactose-intolerant coffee lovers, you're likely to find soy milk in many urban specialty coffee shops. While we would call it just a "latte," you'll usually find the steamy drink with the Italian word "macchiato" attached - meaning "stained" or "marked" by espresso streaks.


Darf ich zahlen, um Ihre Toilette zu benutzen?

"Can I pay to use your restrooms?" Only ask this question in cafes or shops, not at someone's home. It's common to pay for restrooms inside of restaurants and department stores, even if you're a customer. If you're out and about and have to go, it can be hard to find a public restroom. If it's very urgent, you may have to offer 50 cents for the favor at a cafe if you're not a guest there.


Wo finde ich die coolsten Turnschuhe in der Stadt?

"Where can I find the coolest sneakers in town?" Sneakers are in - especially in capitals of cool like Berlin. To find a pair to take home, you can always try the Mall of Berlin or the Alexa mall on Alexanderplatz. But for a less mainstream selection, try Münzstrasse in the Mitte distrinct. And if you just want to people watch and admire the footwear, head to Oranienstrasse in Kreuzberg.


Wie streng sind die Türsteher vor dem Club?

"How strict are the bouncers at the club?" If you want to enjoy Germany to the fullest, then indulge in some nightlife while you're here. Drinking beer and wine is legal at 16, though you have to be 18 to consume anything harder than that. So unless you're a minor, it shouldn't be a problem getting in - as long as you're wearing shoes and a shirt and your outfit suits the club's style.


Ich bin auf der Suche nach einem guten Katerfrühstück.

"I'm looking for a good hangover breakfast." Breakfast after a night out includes the same thing the world over: plenty of grease. On weekends, many Germans like going out for brunch, and the classic brunch includes a few good hangover remedies, such as scrambled eggs and salami sandwiches. But if you want fried potatoes and sausage, you'll have to look for a British or American breakfast place.


Dieser Zug verspätet sich wegen einer Oberleitungsstörung.

"This train is delayed due to a defect in the overhead wiring." That's one of many possible reasons for a longer-than-expected train ride and certainly a common one. Compared to other countries, German trains are relatively punctual, but - despite the clichés - don't be surprised if you arrive later than planned.


Mein Koffer hat (kein) Übergewicht.

"Mein suitcase is (not) overweight." Depending on how much you've indulged in German sausage and cakes (not to mention Latte Macchiatos), you might end up leaving Germany with a few extra kilos. But if you want to avoid extra airline fees, your suitcase should not. It might be best to stock up on digital photos as souvenirs, rather than cuckoo clocks.

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