How does a German pronounce Bratislava

Melting pot BratislavaColorful linguistic diversity in the triangle

"Well nostalgic? I wouldn't say that. It's just history, so it's a thing of the past. Today there are only a few people who can speak the three languages."

Otto Sobek spent his whole life in Bratislava. He was born in 1929 in what was then Pressburg. Only a few years earlier his parents had moved to the city on the Danube. It has been shaped by the coexistence of Germans, Hungarians and Slovaks since the Middle Ages:

It is characterized by multiethnic and multilingual diversity

"I actually grew up trilingual. My parents were German. That's why we spoke German at home. My playmates from early childhood were Czech children, from whom I learned Slovak. I learned Hungarian on the street. When someone spoke to us in Hungarian , we answered in Hungarian. The way we were addressed, so we answered "

In fact, the multiethnic and multilingual diversity is the hallmark of the city on the southwestern border of Slovakia at the border triangle with Austria and Hungary. After the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918, German and Hungarian were increasingly displaced by the Slovak language, but the everyday life of most residents is still dominated by a colorful variety of languages, according to the research of the Slovak German specialist Jozef Tancer:

Interviews with more than 70 contemporary witnesses from old Pressburg

"That is the difference between multilingualism today and multilingualism back then. Today's multilingualism, also in Slovakia, is more a matter of education. Multilingualism results from the fact that we learn foreign languages ​​in school. The multilingualism of that time was a necessity in an ethnically mixed population. "

Over a period of almost ten years, the university professor conducted interviews with more than 70 contemporary witnesses from old Pressburg. Jozef Tancer has now published the result in his book "Loosened Tongues - How we spoke in old Bratislava". A rare glimpse into a setting era. After 1945 almost all members of the German population group and the majority of Hungarians were expelled. The German language almost completely disappeared. But the centuries-long history leaves deep traces to this day:

The German language in particular is experiencing a resurrection

"It's not completely gone. There is the generation of children and there is the generation of grandchildren. Much has been preserved in the family memory. For many people in Bratislava, German and Hungarian are not foreign languages, even if they don't speak the language or if they only speak them partially speak. They consider them their own languages ​​based on family history. "

In fact, the German language in particular has experienced a resurrection in Bratislava since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Many Slovaks live and work in the Austrian border area or in Vienna, which is only 50 kilometers away. Even with many large German employers like Volkswagen, the German language is a prerequisite for well paid jobs. A development that the 88-year-old Otto Sobek likes. Many of the former students of the former professor of international financial relations now work abroad. Then as now, multilingualism is a gateway to the world and ensures open-mindedness and tolerance: "They always say, the more languages ​​you can speak, the more often you are human. So it was good that so many languages ​​were spoken here."