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Even the US fast food chain is switching to German and lovin' itImage: AP

Opinion: Desperately Ditching Denglish

Marc Young
November 15, 2004

After several misguided years of using bad English to woo customers, German advertisers have apparently rediscovered their own language. It may not help ailing retailers much, but limiting silly Denglish is long overdue.


Native English-speakers are often impressed when they come to Germany. Despite their monoglot tendencies, there are still plenty of people that understand them here. Many Germans often wow the British with perfect received pronunciation and Americans are always floored when someone from Düsseldorf sounds like they're from Des Moines, Iowa.

Without a doubt most Germans have a better grasp of English than the French, Greeks and Spanish. But compared to the Dutch or Scandinavians, the average German's command of the language of Shakespeare and "Sex and the City" frequently can leave much to be desired. The clearest evidence of this is the recent move by major German advertisers to back away from using English slogans.

Unlike the French, who religiously guard against the invasion of foreign (read English) words, Germans have embraced Anglo terms and phrases with almost careless abandon in recent years. This has lead to the advent of the horribly silly Denglish (Deutsch + English), which has become far too popular with many Germans.

Calling a mobile phone a "handy" or going online in order to "chatten" with friends is, of course, harmless. The problem starts when English words are used where there are perfectly good German alternatives. For example, there is absolutely no need to use the Denglish verb "updaten" when "aktualisieren" will work just fine.

But far worse than pseudo-important individuals peppering their speech with unnecessary Anglicisms is when companies adopt the annoying habit. Germany's former state monopoly telephone company Deutsche Telekom was rightfully skewered for at one point listing national phone calls on its bills as "German Calls" and local ones as "City Calls." Naturally, 86-year-old grandmothers in deepest Bavaria were perplexed.

Thankfully, big ad firms have apparently come to the conclusion that the vast majority of Teutons have real problems understanding their often ham-handed attempts to use English. And some marketing guru somewhere has fortunately realized that adding confusion to a brand isn't a great marketing strategy in a country plagued by a dreadful climate in the retail and advertising sectors.

Remembering German

The market research outfit Dialego discovered earlier this year that the top seven most recognized ad slogans for German companies were, perhaps unsurprisingly to anyone except the country's ad execs, in German. Whether that study alone was enough to set off alarm bells for copywriters from Hamburg to Munich is unclear. But the trend back to German slogans is undeniable.

Douglas steigert Umsatz
Customers at Douglas perfume stores were coming in and finding their way back out again -- true to its slogan "Come in and find out"Image: dpa

The latest conversion back to good old Deutsch is the Douglas chain of perfume shops. Perhaps because of its English sounding name, the German company for years has bewildered its customers with the slogan "Come In and Find Out." Sadly, the majority of Germans thought the scent peddlers were asking them to come into the store and find their way out again.

The company Germanized the pronunciation of its name long ago. It's spoken "Dooglass" here. Now they've at least decided to be consistent, picking a German advertising motto. Instead of giving their customers directions, the company is "making life prettier" with "Douglas macht das Leben schöner."

Douglas' retreat from English to the mother tongue follows the example of other big name German firms including Lufthansa, utilities giant RWE and the television channel SAT1, which used to claim it was "Powered by Emotion." Unfortunately, that sounded to a lot of Germans like a direct translation of the Nazi recreation slogan "Kraft durch Freude."

Oddly it was the quintessentially American company, McDonald's, that led the way back to German by ditching "Every Time a Good Time" for "Ich liebe es," which is analogous to their US slogan "I'm lovin' it." And so, most certainly, are opponents of Denglish everywhere.

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