Tag Archive: Öffentlichkeitsarbeit


It’s not whose army wins, it’s also whose story wins. And we have to think more about narratives and whose narrative is going to be the most effective.” – Harvard Kennedy School Political Science Professor Joseph Nye, 2010 TED Talk

The U.S. ranks No. 1 for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $18.56 trillion, and holds the top position in The National Brand Index.

When it comes to “hard power,” including its military and its economy, the U.S. has no rivals … at least for the immediate future.

Despite these clear hard-power advantages, the U.S. reportedly spent $670 million for “public diplomacy” in 2014, according to George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh.

In contrast, China spends $10 billion annually to project itself as a “soft power.”

China as a soft power? In essence, the answer is affirmative. China recognizes it needs more than the collective power of its 1.37 billion people, its second-ranking $11.39 trillion economy, and its growing military strength. China is trying to promote its distinct culture, its language and market its country as a place to invest and visit.

The aforementioned Professor Nye is widely credited with formulating the notion of “soft power” or projecting what you have in terms of culture, language, business, tourism etc. to those who may want the same.

Some contend as mentioned in the stately The Economist that a totalitarian state (e.g., China) may not effectively exhibit soft power as it may be interpreted as single-party propaganda. And yet China created The Confucius Institute in 2004 to entice the appreciation of its culture, to lure hundreds of thousands to study its difficult language and visit and invest in China.

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

From The Devastation of War, Occupation, Division and the Holocaust

The activities of the Goethe Institut improve Germany’s reputation abroad, enhance the quality of German-language teaching, contribute to the development of the German language, promote German artists worldwide, and attract talented youth and professionals to Germany.” – Tatiana Lanshina, “The Goethe Institute and Soft Power”

Germany experimented twice in “hard power” in the 20th Century … and lost big time, both times.

In 1951, Germany’s public relations (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) were understandably at an all-time low … most likely the deepest nadir experienced by any country at any time. Interest in German Kultur, Sprache and Land was close to nil.

These facts did not stop Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the German government from creating the Goethe Institut in 1951. The mission of this 350-Euro non-profit organization, drawing the majority of its funds from the German foreign ministry, was to use the forgiveness of time to eventually and systematically regain interest in Das Land in der Mitte (The country in the middle of Europe).

Fast forward to today, Germany is No. 2 in the National Brand Index trailing only the United States. The country’s transformation from an international pariah to revered is nothing less than a public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder).

The author of Almost DailyBrett has a framed Goethe Institut Zertifikat B1 for German language study in his office at Central Washington University. Is the Goethe Institut solely responsible for Germany’s resurrection? Of course not.

There are many other determinants including the reunification, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Economic Miracle, the Marshall Plan, Made in Germany, four World Cup wins, German business success, Germany’s hegemony in the European Union, the popularity of Angela Merkel and many other factors.

Germany understands more than other nations that hard power is not the answer. China obviously appreciates this fact as well. Ditto France with its Alliance Francaise, Italy with its Societa Dante Alighieri, Great Britain with its British Council, Spain with its Instituto Cervantes and Portugal with its Instituto Camoes.

All of the above brings up the obviously question: Who and what projects “soft power” for the United States? One other question: Are we satisfied with the answers?

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

Certainly, the U.S. is nowhere near the lousy image that Germany endured – and still suffers – as a result of the 12 years of Hitler and the Nazis. Nonetheless, the U.S. image at home and abroad is less than ideal regardless of the nation’s military and economic hard-power advantages and the country’s number one ranking in the National Brand Index.

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

Try traveling abroad and see how many times you are asked about Donald Trump once it becomes known that you reside in the Land of Uncle Sam? Does the intemperate, nocturnal Tweeter-in-Chief send the best of image of the red, white and blue across the fruited plain and across the ponds?

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

The entertainment industry can’t even deliver the right envelope for its biggest announcement of the year (e.g., Oscar for Best Picture) at its most celebrated venue (e.g., The 2017 Academy Awards). Do we really want to entrust our soft power to this motley crew?

When it comes to our elite media, the American public sold the stock and voted them out of office. According to Gallup, the Woodward & Bernstein media of 1976 enjoyed a 72 percent approval rating. Last year, the same polling firm recorded a 32 percent approval rating for the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate, a 55.5 percent decline in the last 40 years.

If the American public is turned off by our nattering nabobs of negativism, why would those beyond our borders respect their interpretations of American soft power?

Maybe the time has come for a non-profit, soft-power Mark Twain, Will Rogers or some other American literary giant institute to celebrate American culture (e.g., baseball, hot dogs and apple pie), our unique take on the English language, and the USA as a wonderful place for investment and tourism?

Or maybe we can instead just leave the task to Donald Trump, Hollyweird and the failing American elite media?

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts

http://www.demdigest.net/tag/soft-power/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute

https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/enemy-of-the-american-people/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

 

 

“In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl.” – Mark Twain in his 1880 essay, The Awful German Languagegermanbeauty

What do you call someone, who speaks three languages? Trilingual.

What do you call someone, who speaks two languages? Bilingual.

What do you call someone, who speaks one language? An American.

Not Almost DailyBrett’s favorite guy, but the last of the three rhetorical questions posed by deposed CBS anchor Dan Rather to the National Governor’s Association meeting in Chicago hit me right between the eyes.

The year was 1989. It was das Jahr die Mauer fällt. That was also the year the author of Almost DailyBrett made a resolution to learn another language, German.

Die deutsche Sprache was one of the hottest languages in the world as the Berlin Wall came down and the soon to be reunified Germany started to project “soft power.” German was once again in vogue.

Certainly when it comes to romance, German with its guttural sounds (see Schmetterling above) will never qualify. The closest word in this category may be Gemütlichkeit, which conveys a sense of coziness, a warm fire, an Alpine meadow, a beautiful hike in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald).

I’m Happy That You’re So Sad

There is also Schadenfreude, which roughly translates, “I’m happy that you’re so sad.” Keep in mind that Schadenfreude is also one of the German language’s many compound nouns, making it virtually impossible to play Scrabble in German. How about Arbeitslosigkeitsunterstützung or unemployment insurance?

With a language as tortured as German in which all nouns must be capitalized, is it any surprise there is really no German word for public relations? The closest translation is Öffentlichkeitsarbeit or work with or in the public sphere. If you desire an even longer German compound noun, how about the word for Germany’s public relations miracle from 1945 to present day: Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder?

German is far from the hardest language on the planet to learn (i.e., Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese or even Hungarian), but it is certainly not the easiest. Der, die, das, die (nominative case); den, die, das, die (accusative); dem, der, dem, den (dative) and des, der, des, der (accusative) are all the ways Germans say the word, “the,” depending where and how “the” falls in any sentence.

In English, the word,“the” is “the.” Simple.

And let’s not forget irregular and separable verbs in which a prefix gets thrown to the conclusion of the sentence and with or without the prefix at the end, it changes the meaning of the sentence. For example, rufen means to call and anrufen means to call by telephone … rufen is conjugated, and an is placed at the end of the sentence.

Do you really want to make that phone call?

To get on the Autobahn with no speed limit in long stretches, you follow the Einfahrt, and to exit you follow the Ausfahrt. That’s a lot of Fahrting for one ride on the Autobahn (compound noun).ausfahrt

Similar to Spanish and French (and presumably many other languages), German articles (der, die, das) must be correctly placed before the corresponding masculine, feminine and neuter nouns.

As noted above, clever Mark Twain pointed out German is the only language on the planet that makes a turnip, feminine, die Rübe, and a young unmarried girl/woman neuter, das Mädchen and das Fraulein. Translated: the actual gender of the noun may not matter in determining the article that precedes it.

There is also the issue associated with the fact that many Germans do not believe you can ever learn their language. Go to Berlin or München and ask a question in (near) perfect High-German and more times than naught, you will receive your answer in English oder Englisch.

The good news: they understood your question. The bad news: they are still convinced you will never learn German.

Why Learn German?

“ … People know that you get further in a country if you speak the local and the official language and not just English. For networking and approaching clients, and partially also for business communication, knowing German gives you an additional advantage.Ulrich Ammon, author of The Status of the German Language in the World

Let’s face it, when it comes to learning German, many will instantly equate the language with charming memories, such as Blitzkrieg, Luftwaffe, Achtung, U-Boots, Messerschmitts, Fokkers and dozens of other militaristic terms that harken back to two world wars and the Holocaust.

That’s why it was all the more surprising to learn that German is being offered to 14-to-15 year-old students in Israeli schools or more than 20,000 Israelis have moved to Berlin, the once capital of the Third Reich.

What has changed, particularly when only 104 million of the earth’s 7 billion-plus inhabitants are native German speakers? One answer is these native speakers equate to the 4th largest economy in terms of GNP and the world’s most proficient export machine.

Germany will be eternally tarnished by memories of the Nazis and the Holocaust, but its leadership in the European Union, its popular and consensus-oriented Chancellor Angela Merkel, and its (soft power) powerful export driven economy has made it a land of opportunity. Partially as a consequence of its postwar guilt and its aging population and declining workforce, Germany has been more than generous in opening its borders to those fleeing from Iraq and Syria, and is expected to accommodate 800,000 refugees by the end of the year.schmetterling

Reportedly, there are 15.5 million present day students of die Deutsche Sprache, up 4 percent in the last five years.

Should you become one of them, you will soon be able to translate: Der kleine schöne Schmetterling hat durch den grünen Wald geflogen.

Yep, that is one beautiful little butterfly that flew through the green forest. Pass the schnapps!

http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21663257-once-language-schiller-and-goethe-then-hitler-german-hip-again-sprechen-sie-power

http://www.dw.com/en/why-the-world-should-learn-german-and-why-germany-should-care/a-18236069

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlATOHGj9EY

https://www.cs.utah.edu/~gback/awfgrmlg.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Awful_German_Language

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/latest-3000-migrants-cross-austria-33650547

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21663228-refugees-germanys-chancellor-brave-decisive-and-right-merkel-bold

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/germanys-road-to-redemption-shines-amid-europes-refugee-debate/2015/09/10/00955630-57f0-11e5-8bb1-b488d231bba2_story.html?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_opinions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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