Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Dawson, Edward. “How does linguistic indifference masquerade as linguistic resistance?” German Quarterly, 2023, pp. 1–3.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License,


As we have argued throughout, language is always already political. Nevertheless, collegiate German studies curricula often seem largely indifferent to language politics, especially those that complicate or disrupt the notion of German as a singular language with an indexical relationship to the nation-states with which it is associated. However, discourses such as those described in the previous sections on linguistic indifference in cultural production and in language policy are relevant for learners of German since they reflect societal ideologies that they may encounter and that they themselves may endorse or reject. As Norman Fairclough writes, “If we are committed to education establishing resources for citizenship, critical awareness of the language practices of one’s speech community is an entitlement” (6). While citizenship in a German-speaking country may not be on the horizon for most US-based German learners, questions about who is granted positions of legitimacy within the disparate body of individuals that comprise “the German-speaking community” ought to be a central question in German studies education. This requires attention to the complexity of language and its use but also critical attention to the relationships between language and power.

Complaining about bad subtitles can be a critical act of resistance against linguistic indifference. Students leaving our classrooms should be able to explain to their non- German-speaking friends what they missed in a subtitled film, but they should also be able to watch a subtitled film in a language they themselves do not understand with an awareness of how much more is involved than what they read and be able to leverage this understanding in pushing back against the popular discourse around subtitled films that enables linguistic indifference.