July 14, 2012

German adopting English words

Goethe said : “Wer frende Sprachen nicht kennt, Weiss nichts von seiner eigenen”, something like: “He who does not know another language does not know his own”. 

I have been away for a while preparing for the German proficiency exam: DHS (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang) and then celebrating that I passed with a DSH2. I will tell you more about this exam soon. But today: let´s talk about the English influence into the German language.

My parents were here in Munich in June and they, as all our friends that have visited, did pretty well in the day to day life without a word of German. It is hardly surprising that one can live in Munich without speaking the language: the city receives an influx of tourists almost four times its population every year (5.5 million). Therefore you can expect that they city is going to have a very well developed and established tourism infrastructure to welcome everyone that can speak English.

But I believe the reasons go beyond that. 


I have recently read an article from the Süddeutsche Zeitung  (Is´ja krass, SZ 31.1) that described how the communication of today´s teens is changing in Germany. Words like “cool”, “mum”, “loser”, “shit” or “super” have made their way into the language and they are nowadays part of the daily vocabulary of German adolescents.

But English is not only becoming popular between the youngest, it is also invading the office. People do not use “Sitzung” oder “Besprechung” so oft anymore, they prefer the word “meeting”. Actually the English word meeting has become “das Meeting” in German. But this is just the beginning, these days German companies have “Office managers”,”Human resources” Abteilungen (departments) and “Marketing teams”; the “teams” are no longer “eine Arbeitsgruppe” oder “eine Mannschaft” but the English-German version: “das Team” and they do “kick-off” “Termine” every year; employees work with a “computer” (“der Computer”), not with a “Rechner” and they  take the “laptop” when they travel, not a “tragbarer Rechner”; the teams do “follow up” and “networking” with clients and projects; companies have “casual Fridays” and some other have “home-Offices” if they are not “burn out” already. 

So I believe that the influence of English in the German language is another reason why people can walk around and survive without a word of German.  

Last week we had a discussion in the Uni about this topic. The teacher asked the only native-English speaker in the class. She said that she does not understand this phenomenon and that she does not like it. She said it sounds bad when they use English words in German. Well, I do not know about that and I doubt that this is a shared feeling by the anglo-community… I cannot imagine why you would not like to hear your own language-words used in German… I love when I hear Spanish words in other languages, but I am nobody to judge…

The fact is that English is everywhere here. Let me tell you three more facts:

  • In 2012 Germany presented his song in the Eurovision contest. The song: “Standing Still”. Roman Lob came out of “Unser Star für Baku” a German casting TV show where he and his song in English were chosen by the jury and the public to represent the country in Eurovision this year. I love the song but why didn´t they pick a song in German?
  • The sales season was already on a week ago when I went to the Riem Arkaden in Munich, a great shopping mall in the Messestadt. I knew it was sales season not because the shop window signs said “Ausverkauft” oder “Rabatte” but because it said “sales” and “discount”. I mentioned this to my friends in Spain and they say that shops in Madrid and Barcelona only use the word “sales” these days. They said: it is cooler this way… why is "sales" cooler"?
  • And finally, there was a parade in Munich today: the “Christopher Street Day”. It has been widely announced and it will be reported in the news under this name. They do not use a German equivalent or translation. Why not?
I have to write an essay of 200 words in German on the reasons why the influence of English into German is so strong these days.  At this point I have more questions than answers, so please let me know your opinion, ideas and comments.