Business Denglisch

Working in-house means meetings. The more meetings I attend, the more so-called “Neudeutsch” (new German) I learn. Here, a list of just some of the “new German” words I have heard spoken in the first quarter of 2011:
best practice
last but not least
community feeling
service follow-up
data mining
product support
early warning
pay by use
thank you
in a nutshell

Keep in mind, these meetings were held at a German company, before a German audience, in Germany. Usually the speaker would interrupt himself in mid-sentence to warn us that the next words spoken would be “Neudeutsch”. In this case, Neudeutsch seems to be just another word for English.

I can understand when foreign words are adopted out of necessity but the majority of the English terms and phrases in use in the German business world do not seem to be filling in any gap in the treasure trove of German vocabulary. In fact, in many instances, I’d say that the same concept could be expressed more succinctly in German. Now, how do we tell the Germans that?


11 responses to “Business Denglisch

  1. You write: “How do we tell the Germans that?”
    Are you trying to start a war or something? ūüėČ ūüėČ ūüėČ
    The managers who use that sort of mumbo jumbo can never be told anything. They know it all, and they would quite happily correct your English and contradict you if you ever dare to suggest that you speak English better than they do.
    I suppose the only defence is to play dumb and flatter their ego: “Was genau meinen Sie mit insourcing/roundabout/toolboxen/etc.?”

  2. translationinsider

    Sometimes I wish I would live in France – in Germany you have to attend “Kickoff-Meetings” in order to listen to the “Good News” from the “Manger f√ľr Business Development”. ūüôā

  3. Agree with Victor. You cannot tell Germans what’s right or wrong – they will know better. Best is to play dumb and ask what they actually mean.

    What I find just as awful, by the way, are those many Germans who oppose and ridicule this over-use of anglicisms by putting them into quotes, adding a “so called” here and a “wie es auf Neudeutsch so schrecklich hei√üt” there and generally sneering at the term in order to show how ridiculous they find the word – just to then use the word as if there was no German word for it. I find that just as bad as the “normal” over-use of anglicisms in business speek.

  4. As for trying to tell most Germans anything regarding the English language, I’m sure you’re familiar with the old saying about arguing with fools….

  5. Reminds me of the ‘worst case’

  6. Great article. I think it’s really interesting how words like this are gaining popularity (or perhaps not popularity, but widespread use) when, as you say, equivalents do exist in German.

  7. Mmm, and you forgot to write those words using a German accent! hahaha….

  8. This manager speak looks silly to me, too, in many cases. However, that doesn’t seem to be a singular development: I would bet discussions in the 18th century in Germany involved as many as inadequate French; the same may be true for the 16th century and Latin. Obviously we can’t tell much about actual meetings, but the samples in books written by German authors, for a German audience, printed in Germany don’t look much better to me.

    Using a foreign language where you don’t need it has many reasons:

    a) Your first heard your point or notion stated in that language, so you just reproduce it;
    b) you first heard your point or notion from someone as in a) who didn’t care about translating,
    c) you don’t actually know what it really means. Using your native language always implies a decision what you mean and what you don’t mean. Obviously, this decision can be hurtful if you don’t really care, or if you don’t fully understand yourself;
    d) it looks as though there were an ingenious system established, as there is already a technical term for it,
    e) you have to talk in the foreign language a lot anyway, but don’t care for that language a lot. So you get used to some phrases and isolate them,
    f) hey, it sounds smart!

    But nothing justifies the warning about “Neudeutsch”.
    Actually, usage of that very word should be punished with torture.
    Or even better, one day of enforced silence.

  9. … French words, that is.

  10. I had not realised that these words had become so commonplace in German business. It is strange to imagine that the use of these words, which as you say do not fill an apparent void in the German business language, is so easily accepted.

  11. Germans use Anglicisms in order to sound more cosmopolitan and modern, as well as to help distance
    themselves from the stigma of nationalism that is a result of World War II. 

    With Denglish Germans can demonstrate that they are open-minded and multicultural to get away from stereotypical
    nationalistic identity, showing instead that they are well-read and willing to act as global citizens.

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