A “catastrofe”?

In 1996 the Germans decided to revise their rules for spelling (orthography). In 2004 and 2006 there were further revisions. In 2007 the changes became binding in all schools. 

One of the goals was to modify (eindeutschen – germanize) those words rooted in a foreign language. Apoteke instead of Apotheke (pharmacy). Restorant instead of Restaurant. Katastrofe instead of Katastrophe. 

The pushback from the Ministries of Education in several influential German states blocked it, however. But protests were also loud among the press, in important literary circles and among academia. The high point was when the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) rejected the modifications and returned to the former rules of spelling. 

In 2007 the attempt was made to implement the changes in the school system. Consistency was the overall goal. Certain spelling modifications could be ignored, however, if they simply made no sense. 

Long and difficult consensus-building. Conscious ignoring of decisions made. Resistance to any kind of change. All this was at play in the German attempt to modify their rules for spelling. 

Sabine Krome, a Member of the Council for German Spelling Reform at the fifteenth anniversary of the reform: 

“The original intention of the reform was good. To bring German rules for spelling up to date, which had not been modified over the previous one hundred years. Had we known, however, how difficult the path would be to reach the results we have, it may have been better to wait another hundred years before taking on the task.”