International best-sellers get Germans reading in English | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 23.04.2009


International best-sellers get Germans reading in English

While most Germans prefer to watch the dubbed version of English-language movies, more and more are choosing originals, when it comes to English-language novels. On World Book Day, reading in any language is celebrated.


World Book Day started from a Catalonian tradition

It started in 2003 with "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" - the first English-language book that managed to claim the top spot for several weeks running in Germany's Spiegel best-seller list - in the original.

Several of Joanne K. Rowling's Harry Potter sequels repeated the feat. Now it's the "Twilight" series by American author Stephenie Meyer that's taking German readers - mainly women - by storm.

"People's ability and willingness to read English-language novels is growing," Thomas Wilking, editor-in-chief of the book-sellers' publication "buchreport," told dpa news agency.

A female trend

A boy reads a Harry Potter book

It was Harry Potter rather than Shakespeare who got Germans to choose the original version

"The English boom can mainly be attributed to women," he added. "Women, as a rule, are more likely to read novels, and material like the 'Twilight' series clearly caters to a female audience."

In many cases, readers - those diligent about improving their own English or their children's - buy both the German and English version.

While developing strong English skills is essential to career success in Europe, some German readers also choose the original version when the topic has a strong connection to the language.

"Our users … want everything about Barack Obama as quickly as possible - also in English," said Claudia Kaltenbach Thursday in the Hamburger Abendblatt.

According to the German Booksellers' Association the market share of foreign-language novels has doubled in the past five years, though at just three percent it's still relatively small.

World Book Day

Celebrated on April 23, World Book Day isn't language specific - the idea actually began in the Catalonian region of Spain. Every year on Saint George's name day, Catalonians would give each other roses.

Children read books

As part of World Book Day, stories by prominent authors are distributed to students for free

In the 1920s, Barcelona's book guild saw an opportunity and introduced the tradition of giving books along with roses on April 23.

UNESCO took up the idea in 1995, declaring an international day to celebrate reading, books and authors' rights.

In Germany, World Book Day is observed with a slew of creative events across the country - from readings by prominent actors, to a literary tango evening, to book presentations on a fashion-show-style catwalk.

Fittingly, April 23 is also the anniversary of William Shakespeare's death. Though the works of the legendary English playwright are well-known in Germany, they haven't profited from the boom in original English texts.

Author: Kate Bowen
Editor: Michael Lawton

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