Europe Battles English Invasion | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.12.2004
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Europe Battles English Invasion

Fast becoming Europe's lingua franca, English has invaded other national languages. The trend has some on the continent worried that languages might in the future take second place even within their countries of origin.


Overrunning the continent's other languages?

English has already invaded the languages of Moliere, Cervantes and Goethe, dominating the fields of technology and business and even taking some native tongues hostage.

But purists are fighting back as hybrids such as "surfen" and "downloaden" on the Internet, "emailear" and style terms "looke" or "gestyled" show the creeping advance of English.

Spanglish, Franglais or even Denglish, a mix of Deutsch (German) and English, are prompting a backlash, with a call to arms in some European countries for protective measures or new policies.

But linguistic expert David Crystal said the trend was no bad thing as the introduction of such words enriched a language and aided communication.

Kommunikation Communication Illustration Raimo Bergt EU-Osterweiterung Dossier

A commonly spoken language does make it easier to communicate

"The world needs a lingua franca the more international communication gets and English is the frontrunner at the moment," Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales in Bangor, told AFP news service.

Why not German?

But others countered that -- at least as far as the European Union is concerned -- English should not necessarily be given the status of the bloc's foremost language.

"Why should it be English," said Tobias Mindner, the spokesman for the Verein Deutscher Sprache (VDS), an organization that aims to cleanse German of Denglish. After all, a third of the EU's population speaks German, making it the union's most widely spoken language, he added.

EU Parlament in Brüssel 3

EU parliamentarians rarely resort to German for discussions

German leaders were partially to blame for their language's subordinate role within the EU as they had not done enough to promote it as a commonly used language within EU institutions, Mindner said.

"Politicians have to do a better job at lobbying" for German, he told DW-WORLD.

A first step in that direction has already been taken: This year, the German parliament passed a resolution calling on the government to push for German as a third EU working language alongside English and French, said Karin Eichhoff-Cyrus, the executive director of the Society for German Language, a government-sponsored organization charged with researching, promoting and protecting German.

A clear-cut program to promote German within the EU, however, does not exist so far, she said, adding that she sees the growing prevalence of English as a greater danger to the survival of other national languages than the adoption of English words.

No danger from Denglish?

Sale - reduziert

Some Germans think "sale" sounds cooler than the German equivalent

Germans, for whom English is unrivalled as their second language, like to show off their English skills, sprinkling sentences with adopted expressions like "last-minute" offers, "happy birthday" and "just for fun."

They have also looked to English for certain concepts -- brainstorming, feeling groggy, midlife crisis and sex appeal. A person exposed as gay has been "geoutet."

"Now it's English, before it was Latin or French," Eichhoff-Cyrus told DW-WORLD, adding that still only about 3 to 4 percent of German words were derived from English.

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