Cultural award for cultural mediators

The Austrian Armed Forces Language Institute has been awarded the Kulturpreis Deutsche Sprache


This year’s award ceremony for the tripartite Kulturpreis Deutsche Sprache took place in Kassel (Germany) on 10 October 2015. The Jacob-Grimm-Preis Deutsche Sprache went to Ethiopian-born Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, the vocal group Wortart Ensemble were the recipients of the Initiativpreis Deutsche Sprache, and the Austrian Armed Forces Language Institute was awarded the Institutionenpreis Deutsche Sprache.

The Austrian Armed Forces Language Institute received the (non-endowed) Institutionenpreis Deutsche Sprache for its comprehensive initiatives regarding the linguistic training and further training of national service personnel. The determining factors for the jury were the Institute’s efforts concerning the linguistic training and education of national service personnel with German or non-German mother tongue, as well as the linguistic training and supervision of Austrian military personnel on UN peacekeeping operations in all parts of the world. “The Austrian Armed Forces are exemplary in language tuition and the promotion of German as a foreign language in a work environment characterised by considerable language demands”, the jury spokesman Prof. Dr. Helmut Glück stated.

The Jacob-Grimm-Preis Deutsche Sprache (prize money € 30,000) went to Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, business consultant and doctor of history. Born inEthiopia, he is a mediator between cultures and religions as well as an astute observer of the Germans, their customs and language.

The vocal group Wortart Ensemble from Dresden were awarded the Initiativpreis Deutsche Sprache (prize money € 5,000). The jury highlighted the brilliant idea of combining the poetic and vocal arts and thereby creating a new approach to literary texts in German.

Linguistic training for recruits – unique in Europe

At the Austrian Armed Forces Language Institute, training in German plays a unique role: the courses offered not only serve to train personnel of international armed forces linguistically and professionally for further military courses inAustria, but also aim to qualify members of the AAF linguistically - starting with recruits - for their further career.

This is why the Austrian Armed Forces have made a significant contribution to the integration of multilingual soldiers with non-German mother tongues. This year, for the first time, German coaching was offered as an accompanying measure to military training. This was made use of both by professional soldiers who are native speakers of German, as well as by those with German as their second or third language. What makes this type of training special is that it goes beyond language and also encompasses intercultural competence.

Since 2014 training in German has also been offered to recruits, who can attend on a voluntary basis – free of charge, of course. In contrast to linguistic training for professional soldiers, the emphasis here is put on improving the linguistic abilities which are of paramount importance in their later civilian and, especially, professional lives. The text types analysed deal with everyday communication and communicative issues required when dealing with the official bodies. Here, the national service personnel create their own individual, tailored portfolios of specimen texts, such as a CV’s, letters of application, etc.

Job-related German training during national service therefore not only increases the recruits’ general linguistic competence and conveys military language proficiency and skills, but also boosts future career chances. This offer, unique inEurope, is therefore an investment in the future, and it helps optimise personal as well as social-communicative competences and therefore the self-organised activities of the students - in short, it is an integrative measure to make daily dealings more harmonious and successful.

Ceremony in Kassel

The award was presented to the acting Head of the Language Institute, Colonel Dr. Josef Ernst, and Mag. Robert Rozinsky, who is responsible for the German training programme. The event took place in the Kongress Palais of the city ofKassel und was attended by 700 invited guests.

In his laudatio, Dr. Walter Krämer ofDortmundUniversity spoke of the long tradition of peace support operations and language training in the Austrian Armed Forces. He also pointed out, however, that this alone was not the decisive factor to qualify the Language Institute for the award, but what distinguished it from civilian language training institutions: the targeted application of intercultural competence and skills, especially the ability to integrate the languages and cultures of the regions Austrian soldiers are deployed to as part of peacekeeping operations. The language guides produced for such operations by the Language Institute and handed over to every soldier deployed are perfect examples of this. Prof. Krämer pointed out that imparting this intercultural competence in an international military environment has been the unique feature of the Language Institute for decades.

In his acceptance speech, Colonel Dr. Ernst described the long and sometimes difficult path until the German training programme became the success it is today - inter alia as part of a set of measures to make national service more attractive. This was the result of the 2013 referendum, where a majority of the Austrian population supported universal conscription. He also thanked the jury on behalf of the Language Institute for the prominent award, which has received an international recognition. The Language Institute was congratulated by, inter alia, the EU Commission, the European Council, Yale, Dortmund and Vienna University, the Swedish National Defence College in Stockholm, the American Defence Language Institute in Monterey, as well as the Hungarian Ministry of Defence.

After winning the European Language Label for Innovative Language Projects in 2009, this most recent award is further proof of the excellent work carried out by the Austrian Armed Forces Language Institute. Today, the Language Institute is one of the indispensable training institutions of the Austrian Armed Forces. Irrespective of the reduction in personnel that can be expected as a result of the organisational changes to the structure of the academies and schools in the context of the creation of a Military University, the Austrian Armed Forces Language Institute continues to adhere to its mission statement:

living language – communicating knowledge – creating competence


The Kulturpreis Deutsche Sprache

Since 2001, the Eberhard-Schöck Foundation in Baden-Baden and the German Language Association have awarded the tripartite Kulturpreis Deutsche Sprache for the advancement of the German language:

-       the Jacob-Grimm-Preis Deutsche Sprache (prize money: € 30,000 Euro),

-       the Initiativpreis Deutsche Sprache (prize money: € 5,000), and

-       the Institutionenpreis Deutsche Sprache

Members of the independent panel:

Prof. Dr. Helmut Glück (spokesman, Bamberg), Dr. Holger Klatte (secretary, Dortmund), Prof. Dr. Wolf Peter Klein (Würzburg), Prof. Dr. Walter Krämer (Dortmund), Dipl.-Ing. Eberhard Schöck (Baden-Baden) and Prof. Dr. Waltraud Wende (Berlin).

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