German handwriting

Although the writing style currently used in Germany is the Western cursive style, for many years Germany had its own handwriting based on Gothic, or Fraktur (broken) letters. Very beautiful cursive letters were used for a long time in Germany, up until 1941. At the time when Copperplate handwriting was common in the West, Germany introduced what for me was their most fluid and beautiful version of German writing.

The Prussian rule of Germany strengthened the use of German handwriting, but the convoluted letters made it hard to learn in schools. Later on, at the beginning of the 20th Century, German writing was simplified by a German graphic artist, Ludwig Sütterlin, who made it much easier for children to learn German handwriting — but took away some of the flowing beauty of the then current version of the style. But this also happened in other countries, with the dismissal of the highly ornamental Copperplate style and its replacement with more legible, simpler styles that were also easy to master.

As a matter of fact, many countries (or school districts, in the case of the U.S.) are dropping cursive from elementary school. An example of this trend is Finland, where the teaching of cursive is being phased out in favor of keyboard skills. Well, I guess simplified cursive is better than no cursive at all…AdobePhotoshopExpress_773b2155dd644d0dbb35913dfb3bdff2

In 1941 German handwriting (and printing with Fraktur type) was phased out by the ruling party, and has remained out since then. From then on all printed material used “Latin” letters, and children were taught the “Latin” handwriting as well. But in Germany, where there is still a very strong fountain pen culture (children learn the use of fountain pens in elementary school, and are proud when they do), some societies work for the preservation of German handwriting.

I learned German as a teenager. Here in Rio there was (and there still is) a considerably large German and Austrian community. I was lucky enough to take my German (and piano) lessons from a very lovable lady of Austrian descent, Ms. Luisa Wehrs. She gave up trying to teach me how to play the piano, but went on with my German lessons for quite some time. As I was curious about German handwriting, she also took her time to gracefully teach me how to write using that style that I liked so much.

As it happens, after all those years I still find it difficult to use “Latin” cursive to write in German. The only sad part is that nobody I know directly still uses German, or even Sütterlin, handwriting, so I use this beautiful style only when taking notes for my own use.

Anyway, for those that appreciate this style, there are great resources for learning German handwriting in the web. Videos, printable alphabet tables, worksheets, societies that foster German writing… If any one of the readers of this post is interested, please drop me a line and I will help direct you to what I consider to be the best sources. To begin with, you can try the site Sütterlinschrift.de and you can download a tutorial in English here.

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