I”m currently working in Gera, a city in Thuringia, Central Germany. Since I”m teaching English to two groups of young people from Gera I checked the website of their city to see if there is any information there in English. Much to my dismay, Gera.de looks awful on every level. What”s worse, you can”t just type “gera.de” into your browser. You need to add “www” which shows that the website operators are some amateurs at best. Also, after you type in www.gera.de you get the following URL which is anything but a “speaking URL”:
As you can see, they use a German CMS called “Six” provided by the German company Six Offene Systeme GmbH whose website is German only too. I wouldn”t trust any CMS that doesn”t have any documentation in English and which is developed by a company that doesn”t have an English version of their website.
Of course there is not a single word in English at www.gera.de — why should there be? Now that Gera has been part of Western Europe ever since Germany”s reunification, their citizens should have long realized the economic potential they could use if they provided information about their region in English. Since their website is in German only, Gera literally doesn”t exist outside of Germany. An American tourist will never find this place! But then again Gera”s website is not developed by its citizens but by an administration which is financed through public funds raised by taxes and subsidies. Why would anyone in Gera bother about the website of their city? If anything, an English version could result in even more foreigners coming to their region. In a recent survey 50% of the participants in Thuringia said they felt intimidated by too many foreigners. (The official rate of foreigners in Thuringia is below 3%.) You can”t expect the mayor of Gera, Dr. Norbert Vornehm to create an English version of his city”s website, can you?
I then went on and checked the websites of other medium sized German cities and got the same result: They are in German only. Interestingly enough, the websites of Leipzig and Chemnitz are in the following languages: German, English, Czech, Polish and French. That”s a good
So what would make perfect sense to have a Russian version of any German city”s website. Now, what about French? Only a handful French find their way to our region every year so before investing into maintaining a French version of leipzig.de it would be much more useful and effective to provide information in Russian. The Russians were the ones who helped us get rid of the Nazi regime before the FRG could be founded and now we are making a great effort to ignore them?
Only one Saxon city stands out positively when it comes to the Internet: Dresden. Their website is has 8 language versions: German, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Czech, Polish and Russian! Thank you, Dresden. You are a clever and modern city and if Leipzig doesn”t get its act together within the next few years, I”ll move!