de en

Lingua Franca as a Communication Transit Point

Based on the language policy of his home country Kenya, Nicholas Odhiambo Mboya takes a look at the language dynamics in Germany, at the HFBK Hamburg and proposes a compromise language to reconcile local and international needs.

The language we speak influences the way we perceive our surroundings – and the way our surroundings perceive us. This is especially true if you live in a country where the lingua franca is foreign to you. Not being fluent in the national language of your place of residency is usually a tricky business. From misunderstandings to exclusion from the job market and experiences of bureaucratic burdens: Not being able to communicate in the lingua franca can be linked to many forms of discrimination, which reveals the close connection between language and power. This raises questions about how international students experience language politics, specifically when migrating from the Global South to the Global North. It extends to discrimination for not being competent enough in the national language and the contradictions observed through surprising gestures by native speakers when the migrant is well-conversant with the language.

Language choice (including language shift) is usually heavily influenced by political and economic factors, and not by sentimental ones. The official language becomes a vehicle for political participation and socio-economic drive.[1] The rules in speaking and writing as well as those governed by administrative policies, mitigate bilingual inevitability due to other existing languages and linguistic hierarchies within a given space to foster lingual cohesion and discordance of societal engagement. Therefore, countries with a background in colonial prowess understand the depths of language execution that can be seen through stringent language policies within those countries. Broader communication and international accessibility are ambiguously unique depending on the geographical location, institutions, and the authorities at play. One of the most effective means of nurturing a language is by using and sharing it. However, each system code is influenced by local conditions and the desire to construct identities that reflect the dynamic lifestyles of its members. For example, languages in Kenya are heavily influenced by each other, which led to the development of Sheng, a code-switching language that constitutes itself out of different local languages: It is primarily a mix of Kiswahili and English embedding other local languages.

In the Kenyan context, language has seen a fluctuation process since the colonial inception depending towards which side the wave of interest sways. In her 2009 article, Clara Momanyi, a Professor of Kiswahili literature, claims that the decision of Kenya to use Kiswahili as the national language immediately after independence came as a need to foster human development. This is because Kiswahili is the language of interethnic communication in Kenya, where it bridges the linguistic gap between communities. Kiswahili has the oldest uninterrupted history as an African written language compared to other African languages used in the country. Its written literary history spans almost three centuries. It therefore has a significant role to play in higher education for the purposes of equipping trainees and future professionals with the communicative skills needed to foster national development.[2] Some scholars, however, suggest that Kiswahili's development into an international language in the 19th century was due to trade, wars, colonial administration policies, and the linguistic advantage of being related to Bantu languages on the continent of Africa. Among the most significant factors, Christian missionaries (bible-wielding diplomats as Ngugi Wa Thiong’o refers to them) played a key role in promoting Kiswahili development, using Kiswahili as a means of preaching and teaching, as well as conducting lexicographical research in the dialects of Kiswahili that led to dictionary compilations. This contributed greatly to the spread of Kiswahili in the interior.

Nevertheless, the linguist Wendo Nabea states that the denial of African's right to study English at the time prompted them to learn it due to their curiosity about “modern elitism.” The colonized subjects realized that learning the English language was a sure ticket to wealth and white-collar jobs, so denying them a chance to do so was a way of condemning them to menial jobs forever. Thus, the Kikuyus of Kenya established independent schools so they could learn English without impediments. It is undeniable that colonial language policy was eclectic depending on colonizers' interests. The Phelps Stokes Commission of 1924 is a good example. In the report, the commission recommended eliminating Kiswahili from school curriculums, except in areas where it is spoken as the first language. Further, the commission suggested that early primary classes should teach the mother tongue, and upper primary to university should teach English. This indicates that the colonial language policy in Kenya during colonial rule was never compact. Its position on the teaching of English and African languages was mainly ambivalent. One might presume the incomplete nature of having a local lingua franca at the time was the British colonialists’ well known “divide and conquer” measure to prevent nationalism that would later cause mayhem to the colonial regime.[3]

However, out of this phenomenon Kenyans developed a very integral, playful approach to mixing different languages is something that seems to be seen much more ambiguously in Germany. Although you find many people with a migration background here, which obviously influences the language dynamics, there is a major discourse (like in the UK and France) about “protecting” the national language from foreign influences (which is absurd when you consider that languages have been interacting with each other from time immemorial; certain terms such as “restaurant” for example have a French background but are commonly used in Germany). This can also be felt in issuing residency permits. For a long time, such permits were associated with strict language barriers. It was not until recently that this started to change: The federal authority as per the latest update of the National Visa modification of sections §§ 30, 32 AufenthG (German Residence Act) – regarding the requirement of German language skills for family reunion with professionals and specialists – came into force on December 31, 2022. The immigration rules regarding proof of German language proficiency up to A2 level for persons applying for this type of visa are no longer valid; simple German language skills based on a recognized A1 language certificate “may’’ be mandatory (German mission in India 2023). One might assert this as Germany’s humanitarian responsibility and an outlet to combat the influx of labor force in the country. Such an amendment, I believe, reveals the demographic shortage and generational imbalance that pose problems to economic productivity.

At German universities, foreign students are required to show proof of German language proficiency. The HFBK Hamburg requires applicants for Bachelor's degree programs to show German proficiency or evidence of ongoing language training, whereas Master's program applicants do not need to provide proof of language proficiency. This creates a discrepancy pertaining to students and raises questions about the hierarchy of degree programs and the exceptions and exemptions that accompany them. However, there is almost no language barrier between the staff and the students. This is because foreign students who don't speak German are obviously well-versed in English. It is expected for those who do not speak English to have a sufficient, proficient, or advanced command of German at levels B1, B2, or C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Consequently, students can communicate with staff in either language. In some cases, however, professors or staff administrators may not be native English or German language speakers, and this also applies to students. Disparities like these influence students' choice of lectures and seminars. A holographic barrier occurs when both speakers are encouraged to learn the "other" language to fill the linguistic communication void so that there can be a cohesion of understanding. As an example, some German and foreign students who already have a good grasp of the German language are taking online English courses to catch up with other English speakers in order to better apply to the international community, the same applies to English speakers with the intention to permanently reside in Germany. Consequently, we can ask: What does the concept of internationality mean when it comes to language attainability, particularly at international universities in Europe? According to American linguist Carol Myers Scotton, what makes an alien official language attractive is the reasoning that all groups (in theory) start at zero in acquiring it.[4] Therefore, should all German native staff members in international institutions within German-speaking territories also prove a command of the English language at an advanced level as a job application requirement?

On my first day at HFBK Hamburg, the international office organized an introductory meeting and assigned classes for foreign Bachelor’s students. To my surprise, native German speakers addressed international students in advanced German without asking about their preferred language. Only in the assigned class did the professor inquire about the students' preferred language and switch between English and German as needed. After all, internationality is a transnational discourse with the aim of satisfying the individual interests of diverse parties. Due to these bipartisan backgrounds, language becomes absolute. The double-edged sword of compromise is still a power struggle at the national level. Perhaps the “Germlish” codeswitch might be the ideal lingua franca for connecting local and international residents in Germany, similar to Sheng' in Kenya.


Nicholas Odhiambo Mboya graduated in 2023 with a Bachelor of fine Arts in the class of Prof. Angela Bulloch.


Notes

[1]Carol Myers Scotton. Social Motivations for Codeswitching. Evidence from Africa. Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 28.

[2] Clara Momanyi. “The Effects of 'Sheng' in the Teaching of Kiswahili in Kenyan Schools." Journal of Pan African Studies, Vol.2, No 8., 2009: 127-138, p. 124

[3] Wendo Nabea. "Publication/ Language policy in Kenya: Negotiation with Hegemony." The Journal of Pan African Studies, Vol 3, No 1, 2009: 121-138, p. 124.

[4] See footnote 1, p. 28

This article appeared in Lerchenfeld issue #67.

Examination of the submitted portfolios

How to apply: study at HFBK Hamburg

From February 1 to March 6, 2023, 4 p.m., you can apply to study at HFBK Hamburg. Please find all important info here.

Visitors of the annual exhibition 2024; photo: Lukes Engelhardt

Annual Exhibition 2024 at the HFBK Hamburg

From February 9 -11, 2024 (daily 2-8 pm) the students of HFBK Hamburg present their artistic productions from the past year. In addition, the exhibition »Think & Feel! Speak & Act!« curated by Nadine Droste, as well as the presentation of exchange students from Goldsmiths, University of London, can be seen at ICAT.

photo: Tim Albrecht

(Ex)Changes of / in Art

There's a lot going on at the HFBK Hamburg at the end of the year: exhibitions at ICAT, the ASA students' Open Studios in Karolinenstraße, performances in the Extended Library and lectures in the Aula Wartenau.

Extended Libraries

Knowledge is now accessible from anywhere, at any time. In such a scenario, what role(s) can libraries still play? How can they support not only as knowledge archives but also as facilitators of artistic knowledge production? As an example, we present library projects by students and alumni, as well as our new knowledge space: the Extended Library.

Semester Opening 2023/24

We welcome the many new students to the HFBK Hamburg for the academic year 2023/24. A warm welcome also goes to the new professors, whom we would like to introduce to you here.

And Still I Rise

For over 20 years, US artist Rajkamal Kahlon has been interested in the connections between aesthetics and power, which are organized across historical and geographical boundaries, primarily through violence. With this solo exhibition, the HFBK Hamburg presents the versatile work of the professor of painting and drawing to the Hamburg art public for the first time.

photo: Lukes Engelhardt

photo: Lukes Engelhardt

No Tracking. No Paywall.

Just Premium Content! The (missing) summer offers the ideal opportunity to catch up on what has been missed. In our media library, faculty, students and alumni share knowledge and discussions with us - both emotional moments and controversial discourses. Through podcasts and videos, they contribute to current debates and address important topics that are currently in focus.

Let's talk about language

There are currently around 350 international students studying at the HFBK Hamburg, who speak 55 different languages - at least these are the official languages of their countries of origin. A quarter of the teaching staff have an international background. And the trend is rising. But how do we deal productively with the multilingualism of university members in everyday life? What ways of communication can be found? The current Lerchenfeld issue looks at creative solutions for dealing with multilingualism and lets numerous former international students have their say.

photo: Miriam Schmidt / HFBK

Graduate Show 2023: Unfinished Business

From July 13 to 16, 2023, 165 Bachelor's and Master's graduates of the class of 2022/23 will present their final projects from all areas of study. Under the title Final Cut, all graduation films will be shown on a big screen in the auditorium of the HFBK Hamburg.

photo: Ronja Lotz

photo: Ronja Lotz

Everything for Everyone

In May and June, the HFBK Hamburg offers a varied program with exhibitions, lectures, artist talks and performances. Lots of good reasons to shake off spring tiredness and jump into the programme...

A disguised man with sunglasses holds a star-shaped sign for the camera. It says "Suckle". The picture is taken in black and white.

photo: Honey-Suckle Company

Let`s work together

Collectives are booming in the art world. And they have been for several decades. For the start of the summer semester 2023, the new issue of the Lerchenfeld Magazine is dedicated to the topic of collective practice in art, presents selected collectives, and also explores the dangers and problems of collective working.

Jahresausstellung 2023, Arbeit von Toni Mosebach / Nora Strömer; photo: Lukes Engelhardt

Annual Exhibition 2023 at HFBK Hamburg

From February 10-12, students from all departments will present their artistic works at Lerchenfeld 2, Wartenau 15 and AtelierHaus, Lerchenfeld 2a. At ICAT, Tobias Peper, Artistic Director of the Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof, curates an exhibition with HFBK master students. Also 10 exchange students from Goldsmiths, University of London will show their work there.

Symposium: Controversy over documenta fifteen

With this symposium on documenta fifteen on the 1st and 2nd of February, the HFBK Hamburg aims to analyze the background and context, foster dialogue between different viewpoints, and enable a debate that explicitly addresses anti-Semitism in the field of art. The symposium offers space for divergent positions and aims to open up perspectives for the present and future of exhibition making.

ASA Open Studios winter semester 2021/22; photo: Marie-Theres Böhmker

ASA Open Studios winter semester 2021/22; photo: Marie-Theres Böhmker

The best is saved until last

At the end of the year, once again there will be numerous exhibitions and events with an HFBK context. We have compiled some of them here. You will also find a short preview of two lectures of the professionalization program in January.

Non-Knowledge, Laughter and the Moving Image, Grafik: Leon Lothschütz

Non-Knowledge, Laughter and the Moving Image, Grafik: Leon Lothschütz

Festival and Symposium: Non-Knowledge, Laughter and the Moving Image

As the final part of the artistic research project, the festival and symposium invite you to screenings, performances, talks, and discussions that explore the potential of the moving images and the (human and non-human) body to overturn our habitual course and change the dominant order of things.

View of the packed auditorium at the start of the semester; photo: Lukas Engelhardt

View of the packed auditorium at the start of the semester; photo: Lukas Engelhardt

Wishing you a happy welcome

We are pleased to welcome many new faces to the HFBK Hamburg for the winter semester 2022/23. We have compiled some background information on our new professors and visiting professors here.

Solo exhibition by Konstantin Grcic

From September 29 to October 23, 2022, Konstantin Grcic (Professor of Industrial Design) will be showing a room-sized installation at ICAT - Institute for Contemporary Art & Transfer at the HFBK Hamburg consisting of objects designed by him and existing, newly assembled objects. At the same time, the space he designed for workshops, seminars and office workstations in the AtelierHaus will be put into operation.

Amna Elhassan, Tea Lady, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

Amna Elhassan, Tea Lady, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

Art and war

"Every artist is a human being". This statement by Martin Kippenberger, which is as true as it is existentialist (in an ironic rephrasing of the well-known Beuys quote), gets to the heart of the matter in many ways. On the one hand, it reminds us not to look away, to be (artistically) active and to raise our voices. At the same time, it is an exhortation to help those who are in need. And that is a lot of people at the moment, among them many artists. That is why it is important for art institutions to discuss not only art, but also politics.

Merlin Reichert, Die Alltäglichkeit des Untergangs, Installation in der Galerie der HFBK; photo: Tim Albrecht

Graduate Show 2022: We’ve Only Just Begun

From July 8 to 10, 2022, more than 160 Bachelor’s and Master’s graduates of the class of 2021/22 will present their final projects from all majors. Under the title Final Cut, all graduation films will be shown on a big screen in the auditorium of the HFBK Hamburg. At the same time, the exhibition of the Sudanese guest lecturer Amna Elhassan can be seen in the HFBK gallery in the Atelierhaus.

Grafik: Nele Willert, Dennise Salinas

Grafik: Nele Willert, Dennise Salinas

June is full of art and theory

It has been a long time since there has been so much on offer: a three-day congress on the visuality of the Internet brings together international web designers; the research collective freethought discusses the role of infrastructures; and the symposium marking the farewell of professor Michaela Ott takes up central questions of her research work.

Renée Green. ED/HF, 2017. Film still. Courtesy of the artist, Free Agent Media, Bortolami Gallery, New York, and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne/Munich.

Renée Green. ED/HF, 2017. Film still. Courtesy of the artist, Free Agent Media, Bortolami Gallery, New York, and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne/Munich.

Finkenwerder Art Prize 2022

The Finkenwerder Art Prize, initiated in 1999 by the Kulturkreis Finkenwerder e.V., has undergone a realignment: As a new partner, the HFBK Hamburg is expanding the prize to include the aspect of promoting young artists and, starting in 2022, will host the exhibition of the award winners in the HFBK Gallery. This year's Finkenwerder Art Prize will be awarded to the US artist Renée Green. HFBK graduate Frieda Toranzo Jaeger receives the Finkenwerder Art Prize for recent graduates.

Amanda F. Koch-Nielsen, Motherslugger; photo: Lukas Engelhardt

Amanda F. Koch-Nielsen, Motherslugger; photo: Lukas Engelhardt

Nachhaltigkeit im Kontext von Kunst und Kunsthochschule

Im Bewusstsein einer ausstehenden fundamentalen gesellschaftlichen Transformation und der nicht unwesentlichen Schrittmacherfunktion, die einem Ort der künstlerischen Forschung und Produktion hierbei womöglich zukommt, hat sich die HFBK Hamburg auf den Weg gemacht, das Thema strategisch wie konkret pragmatisch für die Hochschule zu entwickeln. Denn wer, wenn nicht die Künstler*innen sind in ihrer täglichen Arbeit damit befasst, das Gegebene zu hinterfragen, genau hinzuschauen, neue Möglichkeiten, wie die Welt sein könnte, zu erkennen und durchzuspielen, einem anderen Wissen Gestalt zu geben

New studio in the row of houses at Lerchenfeld

New studio in the row of houses at Lerchenfeld, in the background the building of Fritz Schumacher; photo: Tim Albrecht

Raum für die Kunst

After more than 40 years of intensive effort, a long-cherished dream is becoming reality for the HFBK Hamburg. With the newly opened studio building, the main areas of study Painting/Drawing, Sculpture and Time-Related Media will finally have the urgently needed studio space for Master's students. It simply needs space for their own ideas, for thinking, for art production, exhibitions and as a depot.

Martha Szymkowiak / Emilia Bongilaj, Installation “Mmh”; photo: Tim Albrecht

Martha Szymkowiak / Emilia Bongilaj, Installation “Mmh”; photo: Tim Albrecht

Annual Exhibition 2022 at the HFBK

After last year's digital edition, the 2022 annual exhibition at the HFBK Hamburg will once again take place with an audience. From 11-13 February, students from all departments will present their artistic work in the building at Lerchenfeld, Wartenau 15 and the newly opened Atelierhaus.

Annette Wehrmann, photography from the series Blumensprengungen, 1991-95; photo: Ort des Gegen e.V., VG-Bild Kunst Bonn

Annette Wehrmann, photography from the series Blumensprengungen, 1991-95; photo: Ort des Gegen e.V., VG-Bild Kunst Bonn

Conference: Counter-Monuments and Para-Monuments.

The international conference at HFBK Hamburg on December 2-4, 2021 – jointly conceived by Nora Sternfeld and Michaela Melián –, is dedicated to the history of artistic counter-monuments and forms of protest, discusses aesthetics of memory and historical manifestations in public space, and asks about para-monuments for the present.

23 Fragen des Institutional Questionaire, grafisch umgesetzt von Ran Altamirano auf den Türgläsern der HFBK Hamburg zur Jahresausstellung 2021; photo: Charlotte Spiegelfeld

23 Fragen des Institutional Questionaire, grafisch umgesetzt von Ran Altamirano auf den Türgläsern der HFBK Hamburg zur Jahresausstellung 2021; photo: Charlotte Spiegelfeld

Diversity

Who speaks? Who paints which motif? Who is shown, who is not? Questions of identity politics play an important role in art and thus also at the HFBK Hamburg. In the current issue, the university's own Lerchenfeld magazine highlights university structures as well as student initiatives that deal with diversity and identity.

photo: Klaus Frahm

photo: Klaus Frahm

Summer Break

The HFBK Hamburg is in the lecture-free period, many students and teachers are on summer vacation, art institutions have summer break. This is a good opportunity to read and see a variety of things:

ASA Open Studio 2019, Karolinenstraße 2a, Haus 5; photo: Matthew Muir

ASA Open Studio 2019, Karolinenstraße 2a, Haus 5; photo: Matthew Muir

Live und in Farbe: die ASA Open Studios im Juni 2021

Since 2010, the HFBK has organised the international exchange programme Art School Alliance. It enables HFBK students to spend a semester abroad at renowned partner universities and, vice versa, invites international art students to the HFBK. At the end of their stay in Hamburg, the students exhibit their work in the Open Studios in Karolinenstraße, which are now open again to the art-interested public.

Studiengruppe Prof. Dr. Anja Steidinger, Was animiert uns?, 2021, Mediathek der HFBK Hamburg, Filmstill

Studiengruppe Prof. Dr. Anja Steidinger, Was animiert uns?, 2021, Mediathek der HFBK Hamburg, Filmstill

Unlearning: Wartenau Assemblies

The art education professors Nora Sternfeld and Anja Steidinger initiated the format "Wartenau Assemblies". It oscillates between art, education, research and activism. Complementing this open space for action, there is now a dedicated website that accompanies the discourses, conversations and events.

Ausstellungsansicht "Schule der Folgenlosigkeit. Übungen für ein anderes Leben" im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; photo: Maximilian Schwarzmann

Ausstellungsansicht "Schule der Folgenlosigkeit. Übungen für ein anderes Leben" im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; photo: Maximilian Schwarzmann

School of No Consequences

Everyone is talking about consequences: The consequences of climate change, the Corona pandemic or digitalization. Friedrich von Borries (professor of design theory), on the other hand, is dedicated to consequence-free design. In “School of No Consequences. Exercises for a New Life” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, he links collection objects with a "self-learning room" set up especially for the exhibition in such a way that a new perspective on "sustainability" emerges and supposedly universally valid ideas of a "proper life" are questioned.

Annual Exhibition 2021 at the HFBK

Annual exhibition a bit different: From February 12- 14, 2021 students at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts, together with their professors, had developed a variety of presentations on different communication channels. The formats ranged from streamed live performances to video programs, radio broadcasts, a telephone hotline, online conferences, and a web store for editions. In addition, isolated interventions could be discovered in the outdoor space of the HFBK and in the city.

Katja Pilipenko

Katja Pilipenko

Semestereröffnung und Hiscox-Preisverleihung 2020

On the evening of November 4, the HFBK celebrated the opening of the academic year 2020/21 as well as the awarding of the Hiscox Art Prize in a livestream - offline with enough distance and yet together online.

Exhibition Transparencies with works by Elena Crijnen, Annika Faescke, Svenja Frank, Francis Kussatz, Anne Meerpohl, Elisa Nessler, Julia Nordholz, Florentine Pahl, Cristina Rüesch, Janka Schubert, Wiebke Schwarzhans, Rosa Thiemer, Lea van Hall. Organized by Prof. Verena Issel and Fabian Hesse; photo: Screenshot

Exhibition Transparencies with works by Elena Crijnen, Annika Faescke, Svenja Frank, Francis Kussatz, Anne Meerpohl, Elisa Nessler, Julia Nordholz, Florentine Pahl, Cristina Rüesch, Janka Schubert, Wiebke Schwarzhans, Rosa Thiemer, Lea van Hall. Organized by Prof. Verena Issel and Fabian Hesse; photo: Screenshot

Teaching Art Online at the HFBK

How the university brings together its artistic interdisciplinary study structure with digital formats and their possibilities.

Alltagsrealität oder Klischee?; photo: Tim Albrecht

Alltagsrealität oder Klischee?; photo: Tim Albrecht

HFBK Graduate Survey

Studying art - and what comes next? The clichéd images stand their ground: Those who have studied art either become taxi drivers, work in a bar or marry rich. But only very few people could really live from art – especially in times of global crises. The HFBK Hamburg wanted to know more about this and commissioned the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Hamburg to conduct a broad-based survey of its graduates from the last 15 years.

Ausstellung Social Design, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Teilansicht; photo: MKG Hamburg

Ausstellung Social Design, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Teilansicht; photo: MKG Hamburg

How political is Social Design?

Social Design, as its own claim is often formulated, wants to address social grievances and ideally change them. Therefore, it sees itself as critical of society – and at the same time optimizes the existing. So what is the political dimension of Social Design – is it a motor for change or does it contribute to stabilizing and normalizing existing injustices?