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The Influence of English on the German Language

Dorothea Baerthlein from Germany

Dorothea Baerthlein
Photo: Sandy Peters
It's vital to know English if you want to read a German magazine because it's often full of English.


 

All over the world, people are using the English language more and more. The use of English has become very popular. Many people combine English phrases with the mother tongue.

In Germany, this phenomena is very common. English expressions are used in conversations and increasingly in written form. Advertisements are often designed completely in English; new words sounding like English are created, even if they don’t exist in English.

For example, in Germany the official word for cell phone is “Handy” – it doesn’t exist as a noun in English. There is no German equivalent. When I go to the gym, there are “aerobic-classes,” we “warm-up,” we “cool-down,” we use the “stepper,” we go “jogging.” When we go shopping, we buy a “T-Shirt,” a “sweater”, or “shorts.” In business, we attend a “meeting” and we have “good connections.” These are just a few examples of the widespread use of the English language in Germany.

English in German magazine ads
Photo: Sandy Peters
English expressions are used in conversations and increasingly in written form. Advertisements are often designed completely in English.

 

Other nations, like France, have taken action to protect their language from the influence of “Americanization.” In Germany, however, there is concern that those regulations could be associated with Hitler’s Third Reich. During that time, the language had to be pure; all foreign words were translated into German equivalents. If the government curbed the use of English words now, this could be interpreted as a setback into that terrible past.

However, there are a few German citizens who are increasingly concerned about their mother tongue. They founded the “Association of the German Language” that is trying to stem the use of English vocabulary in German.

Personally, I think in general it is not a big deal to use some common English expressions as they often describe things more directly. But people should be aware of the need to use English correctly. All too often, bad English is spoken or even written instead of good German. The proper use of the German language would be the better choice.

However, there are some fields that require the use of English words. For example, for the high-tech communication and the Internet; also for the travel business, there is no alternative to English.

I think you have to find a balance and decide when it is better to use good German in place of bad English or when the use of correct English words is more appropriate. Languages have always changed naturally, and I disagree with a restriction by law. Some nice expressions borrowed from other languages can make a conversation more vivid.


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