Denglish Invades Germany | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 13.05.2002
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Denglish Invades Germany

Language purists may cringe at the relentless march of English in Germany, but the global lingua franca is now making worrying forays into the German scientific and research landscape.

A Denglish dictionary next?

A Denglish dictionary next?

Is there any way you can escape it? About 380 million people speak it as their first language and maybe about two-thirds as many have it as their second.

About a billion are learning it and it’s predicted that by 2050, about half the world will be more or less fluent in it.

It’s the language of globalisation, of international business, of diplomacy, of politics. And it’s the lingua franca of computers and the internet.

But as English spreads its tentacles around the world, several countries are trying to put up barriers and appoint watchdog bodies to protect their languages from being overrun by Anglicisms.

Piquant language dilemma

Germany is no exception. A number of language guardian institutions are in place to shield the language of Goethe and Schiller from "Denglish", a curious mixture of German (Deutsch) and English.

And they’re all presently involved in an old debate that has been rekindled in Germany. Namely, how far can English words be accepted in the German language?

This time the debate centres on English penetration in German scientific circles.

German science and research riddled by English

Furious members of the German Academy for Language and Poetry and the Institute for the German Language are up in arms against the onslaught of English words especially in the field of science and research.

They claim that these are debasing the German language and undermining its worth.

The German Academy for Language and Poetry believes that English poses a real threat to German as a language of the sciences.

Publish in English or perish in German?

The Academy warns that absorbing too many English technical terms and phrases may lead to a danger of German being reduced to a status of a "dialect" in innovative fields such as research and technology.

The President of the Academy, Christian Meier says that subjects under threat include economics, mathematics, natural sciences as well as technology. Scientists writing and publishing in German in these fields are less likely to be taken seriously at the international level, he says.

BSE or "bad simple English"

Today an increasing number of German universities offer international courses to lure more foreign students. But what remains questionable at these new institutes is the quality of English used in the lecture halls.

Interestingly, the German Academy for Language and Poetry believes that BSE or "bad simple English" used at the universities is one of the reasons why the German language seems to be stuck in a rut and doesn’t develop further in innovative fields.

In a memorandum issued in Berlin recently, the Academy urged a further "expansion of German scientific terminology". But at the same time it also demanded an improvement of English scientific terminology in Germany.

France fussier than Germany

There’s no denying that English is omnipresent in everyday life in Germany.

But the calls to resist the spread of Denglish are not new in Germany. Admittedly, the Germans are not as fastidious as the French in trying to protect their language.

In France, Air France pilots still protest at air-traffic instructions given in English, and members of the French Academy, guardians of national pride, still meet in their silver and gold embroidered uniforms to lay down the linguistic law.

Protests against Denglish

Some years ago, the Institute for the German Language wrote a scathing letter to Deutsche Telekom to protest its adoption of "grotesque" terms such as City Call, Holiday plus Tarif and German Call.

The President of the Institute, Wolfang Kramer was so enraged at the blatant sullying of the German language that he founded the Society for the Protection of the German Language, which now awards a prize for the Sprachpanscher (language debaser) of the year.

Denglish - unstoppable

But today, most people in Germany would merely scoff at a protest like that. And few people would listen to Walter Krämer, Chairman of the Society for the Protection of the German language spluttering about Anglicisms as "pseudo cosmopolitan drivel".

These are after all the days of Generation @. Today the German language nonchalantly helps itself to internet jargon as soon as it is coined – "Browser", "Provider", "Server", "Update", "Surfen".

Teenspeak overflows with expressions such as "cool", "hip", "kids", "trendy", "sexy", "relaxen".

And Germans in the business world are "CEOs", "Bankers" "Managers", "Global Players", "High potentials". They go to the "office", attend "meetings", work in "teams", participate in "workshops" and consider "stock options".

Without such universally understood terms, many would be hard pressed to describe their "Job", buy the right products when they go "Shoppen" or spend the evening "chatten" on the internet.

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