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If I want to refer to multiple male and female teachers, do I say "Lehrer*Innen" or "LehrerInnen". Or do I simply say "Lehrer und Lehrerinnen"? Which is the correct plural form, assuming it is being used in a formal context(when writing)?

Also does this apply to other words as well like "Student". Also what is the case for an informal context? Can I just use any of them(interchangeably)?

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  • You can just use LuL
    – Jan
    Commented May 24 at 14:31

1 Answer 1

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There is no clear answer to this. If you want to follow the rules of the Rechtschreibrat (body that prescribes language rules for public offices and schools) and want to gender, you can go with "Lehrerinnen und Lehrer".

(Language) conservatives argue that the traditional form, namely just using the basic form "Lehrer", is the best way to refer to people of that profession without talking about gender at all. Feminists in the German-speaking world have rejected that notion for decades, saying that "Lehrer" can too easily be be misunderstood to mean only male teachers. They call this form the "generic masculinum" and imply that the fact that the male form is at the same time used as the general form is due to a patriarchic history of the language.

If you want to express solidarity with classic feminism, you can write "LehrerInnen", which was the goto form of the 1970s and 1980s on the progressive side of the political spectrum.

In parallel, the gerund form "Lehrende" also became popular. Other ways to avoid the gender form are to use alternative words like "Lehrpersonen" or "Lehrkräfte".

If you intend to express your solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ movement or if you write for contemporary progressive readers or readers in the academic sphere, you can go with the form "Lehrer*innen" (or "Lehrer_innen" or "Lehrer:innen"), which, although being used widely in these spheres, is also the most controversial form. It is rejected by majorities in every representative poll about it and has for now also been rejected by the Rechtschreibrat because of its use of non-alphabetic characters inside a word.

All of these forms can be used in formal and informal contexts, and people to whom gendering language is an important issue do use them in all contexts, too, because they see it as a moral imperative.

Otherwise, there is of course a tendency to be more "correct" in formal contexts than in informal ones, and the more of an effort correct gendering is, the more likely it is that shortcuts are used in informal contexts. One of the appeals of the shortened forms like "LehrerInnen" or "Lehrer*Innnen" for informal use is that they are easier to say than the full "Lehrerinnen und Lehrer".

I also know some teachers who use the spoken acronym "SuS" ("Ess-U-Ess") for "Schülerinnen und Schüler" in their daily internal lingo because they don't want to just say "Schüler", but also don't like the spoken form of "Schüler*Innen" with the glottal stop.

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  • Thank you so much for your inputs. I would stick to using "Lehrerinnen und Lehrer", as stated by the rules of the Rechtschreibrat, when writing.
    – Ronith
    Commented May 20 at 6:39
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    This answer unfortunately omits the most obvious and traditional wording which would simply be "Lehrer" using the generic masculine. Even if you might not like it, I think it should be mentioned.
    – tofro
    Commented May 20 at 9:13
  • This answer fails to mention that the Rechtschreibrat has actively rejected forms like "Lehrer*innen" (2023-12-15), instead it creates the impression that the approval may be coming soon.
    – RalfFriedl
    Commented May 20 at 9:25
  • @RalfFriedl So does this mean that the word is seen as inappropriate or incorrect on legal/formal documents? Also is this applicable in every german speaking nation and other german embassies/institutes around the world?
    – Ronith
    Commented May 20 at 10:48
  • @tofro: I don't believe that we will ever just return to the "generic masculinum" in formal contexts at this point, I'm afraid that ship has sailed long ago. But, ok, I included it.
    – HalvarF
    Commented May 20 at 13:02

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