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English Words in German Language Usage – Is German Killed by Anglicisms?

written by: Saoirse OMara • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 1/4/2012

The German language has been changing greatly during the past years. Many Germans would rather use an English word with a similar meaning instead of a German word. What is the cause?

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    German, the language of novelists and poets. A language with many untranslatable words which have found their way into English. Think of kindergarten, poltergeist or angst to name but three examples. However, German has seen many changes in the past years. More and more English and pseudo-English words have conquered the former poetic language. Some people seem not to be able to build a single sentence without at least one anglicism. Anglicisms in German have become “the good tune", or so it seems.

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    English in Business

    Sometimes when I read communication within a German company, for example emails from one department to another, I do not understand what is meant. Mind you, I speak both English and German fluently. In these “German" texts, however, one anglicism is followed by another. The excessive use of English words with the same meaning after the other instead of perfectly understandable German words makes some texts impossible to understand without a lot of time and guessing.

    In addition, Germans have been substituting good old names for professions by English names without apparent reason. It seems that Germans think English sounding professions are more important.

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    English in Advertising and Product Marketing

    There have been only few advertising campaigns without a single anglicism in the past years. English is cool, English is young, English is dynamic. At least that is the attitude of many Germans, especially of younger people and managers, towards the other language. German on the other hand seems to be stamped as old-fashioned, boring and moldy. Products for the young generation seemingly cannot be marketed without at least two or three English sounding words.

    Many new products and brand names sound English. Take the cell phone, for example. The German word for it is “handy". This is only one of the many English words with different meaning which have found their way into German language. So why did the Germans choose this name? Did the marketing experts even know the correct meaning of the word they used? What has happened to the German language?

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    German Language Is Changing

    My attempt to explain these changes is the following: There are less and less people who can truly identify with Germany, German language and German culture. Already a huge part of the people living in Germany has foreign origins. Many of these people with immigration background have no sound command of the German language. The young generation grows up with internet and computer games instead of good books. Therefore, German language has lost importance for many German citizens.

    In school, children hear that English is important for their future career as the globalization makes it absolutely necessary to communicate with people from all over the world. English is business language number one.

    Many computer games, films and famous singers come from the USA. The internet is full of texts in English language.

    For many people, English consequently means success, information and “cool stuff". German on the other hand stands for unemployment, social and political problems, maybe even racism.

    The people who make these distinctions are not aware of their connotations. They have just made the experience that many negative things are German and many positive things are English. They do not see that English speaking countries have their own problems with unemployment and the like or that there are good things in Germany as well.

    German people are dying because German women get less and less children. The German language, however, will die even faster.

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