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There seems to be a strong negative emotional reaction among (some?) native German speakers to the new spelling rules. They use the old spelling rules themselves and dislike the new spelling.

Should a German student ever intentionally use the old spelling rules? Would this endear them to native Germans, or would it just look like the student had studied with an outdated textbook?

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Do not judge things by what Germans complain about. Because Germans complain about everything. ;) –  TwoThe May 19 at 17:14

4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Perception of your writing
The majority of the people are used to the new spelling now, so I'd suggest writing in new spelling simply because it would appear strange to not use it. Most people should know you are no native and therefore they'll expect you to write in the new orthography.

As for those minority using the old spelling nevertheless, it's their freedom but I highly doubt that somebody would alienate you for that.

Intentional writing
There are some edgecases like "Ketschup" (new) vs. Ketchup (old, both allowed) and "Delfin, Delphin" or "Fantasie, Phantasie". With these words (you need to know) you can express your level of education, your knowledge about the etymology. There I suggest to use the old spelling intentionally.

When citing texts (e.g. Kant or Goethe) you have to use the original writing although it may be wrong now.

German population & new orthography
According to wiki the new orthography is disliked. Although this dislike should be against the people pushing the reform and not about those using it. In numbers of 2008:
55% against new orthography
31% don't care
09% pro new orthography

However, don't forget most people are not bound by any kind of rules about the language (only the countries employees must use new orthography), a lot of people neither change nor care for new spellings. Therefore I highly doubt those numbers, simply because everybody against a reform could be somebody against any rules for spelling.

For a non-native the most important thing to learn is the grammar which didn't change noticable and there the focus should be on inflexions. This is what makes you understandable :)

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Original Kant or Goethe texts were wrong by the 1901–1996 orthography as well. In fact most school literature of these works used an in-between spelling which was ‘behutsam angepasst’. –  Debilski May 31 '11 at 23:06
The majority of you young scallawags is used to new spelling! The rest of us isn't. When I was your age, we had one proper spelling standard and that was it. And we didn't need another! (waves walking stick, adjusts hearing aid) –  Pekka 웃 May 31 '11 at 23:32
@Samuel yeah. No matter how one feels about the new standard, it's probably here to stay, and the right thing for new learners. –  Pekka 웃 May 31 '11 at 23:39
A lot of people can’t spell correctly in either orthography anyway. (Especially in, but not constricted to, ‘the Internet’.) I wonder whether those people are represented in the statistics. :) –  Debilski May 31 '11 at 23:58
Remark regarding the poll numbers: The reform has two features that are really noticeable to everyone: Change of the rules for "ss" and "ß", change of the rules for writing some words as a single word (Rad fahren or radfahren). Most of the other changes were elimination of exceptions that few people knew or cared about. It is easy to give good arguments against the changes around the radfahren issue, it is easy to argue with aesthetic, tradition and history for "daß", but it is very hard to impossible to defend the rest of the changes who were certainly not known to most polled people. –  Phira Jun 1 '11 at 0:20

Don't try to use the old spelling if you are a foreign student.

Partial use of the old orthography will endear you to no one. Neither is it likely that the occasional "daß" will make you look out of date. Many people have continued to use "daß" while not applying most of the other concerned old orthography rules because most people never knew them.

But the simple truth is that for more than 15 years students have learned the new orthography, most texts are printed in new orthography, and it will be practically impossible for you to learn the old orthography properly.

The reform was heatedly debated more than 15 years ago, not now, and I suggest not to listen to people who emphasize their high level of language sensitivity by comparisons of rape and orthography reform, but YMMV.

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In addition to what the others answered, I wanted to add, that if you're a student in a German course that started after, I think it was 2005ish, it would be plain wrong and graded as such, if you'd use the old spelling rules. As it is in German schools.

This also applies for any official exam, such as TestDaf, the ones from the Goethe Institut, etc.

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The "Rechtschreibreform" happened 1996! Not 2005! In 2004 and 2006 there was minor corrections. In 2004 no rule was changed, but some additional variations became allowed. In 2006 writers became even more freedom, but in some cases some old variations became disallowed. But as I said before: Those was minor corrections. The Reform itself happened in 1996 (18 years ago!) –  Hubert Schölnast May 17 at 8:06
You are absolutely correct. What I'm referring to, is a Prüfungsordnung, that allowed students, who started in courses before a certain date, to use the old rules, even though they were technically not correct. (For example, I was allowed to write my Abitur with the old rules in 2002.) By now, this detail is probably obsolete, since enough time has passed to assume, that there are no students of that change-over era left. –  konkret May 17 at 8:14

I recommend you to learn the old, unreformed orthography. You are right that the majority of Germans was strongly against this violation of German. Not sure how is it now ...

If you want to learn Kurrentschrift, you also have to use the old orthography from Konrad Duden. It does not work with the refomed German orthography, because of the Lang-s, Rund-s and Scharf-s. It is impossible to write "dass" with double-s in Fraktur or Kurrentschrift.

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The old spelling never said anything about Lang or Rund-s. I don’t see kurrent not working with the new orthography. –  Debilski May 31 '11 at 23:01
sure it did! check it before you write something like this please –  burbuja May 31 '11 at 23:11
thanks for rep no -1: You state mayority [sic!] *was* but give an advice for now and the future. You do that despite not knowing the current mood (at least you tell that yourself). Additionally you don't state why the reform is a violation (which is clearly only a biased statement and therefore a violation of the rules!). –  Samuel Herzog May 31 '11 at 23:17
Samuel, my English is not at the level to discuss this. Die Reform wurde von der Mehrheit der Deutschen als eine Vergewaltigung der Sparche empfunden, sie haben dagegen hart gekämpft, und schließlich wahrscheinlich verloren. Es ist offensichtlich, daß du darüber gar nichts weißt. –  burbuja May 31 '11 at 23:24
@burbuja Wir können auch gerne deutsch sprechen. Ich teile @Pekkas Argumentation. Außerdem finde ich Ausdrücke wie "Vergewaltigung" weit übertrieben und dem Ton dieser Plattform nicht angepasst. Darum auch mein Hinweis auf die Subjektivität deiner Frage. Hierzu darf ich dich gerne auf @Jeffs [Good Subjective, Bad Subjective] (blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective) Questions Post verweisen. –  Samuel Herzog May 31 '11 at 23:55

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