Inclusive language is often raised by students of German, and a number of German departments have recently developed new recommendations regarding the incorporation of gender-inclusive and/or gender-neutral language in German teaching and assessment at university level. While the AGS does not seek to prescribe curricular content or teaching approaches, we support efforts to create an inclusive learning environment for students and staff in German Studies, and to prepare students fully for time spent in German-speaking countries.  

Parallel to debates in Anglophone countries and elsewhere, gender-inclusive language has been debated extensively in German-speaking societies since the 1980s. German-speaking media and institutions have over the years adopted a number of ways to facilitate inclusivity in language, and these issues and linguistic forms merit being introduced and discussed at universities as part of a balanced, critical and contemporary curriculum, alongside the still widely used ‘generic masculine’.

Some of these forms are contested, but we recommend that students of German are introduced to commonly-used linguistic forms that seek to facilitate inclusivity, such as the asterisk (“Student*innen”), the colon (“Student:innen”) or other neutral forms (“Studierende”). It is essential that students are able to recognize such forms. While we support the inclusion of these forms in German language teaching where appropriate, we recommend that there be no expectation that students use them in their own work. 

On gender-neutral pronouns, we refer interested parties to the work of Illi Anna Heger.  The document linked to here, which was developed by Dr Sheila Watts in discussion with colleagues, including linguists in the Forum for Germanic Language Studies, for use at the University of Cambridge, may also serve as a helpful starting point for discussions. Colleagues are welcome to adapt it and use it in their teaching, with due acknowledgement.

The Association for German Studies has a dedicated working group on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, who is happy to support German departments in creating guidelines on gender-inclusive/gender-neutral language if they wish.