Category Archives: Denglish

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
monitoring
roundabout
happy
headcount
training
insourcing
feedback(s)
toolbox(en)
pricing
last but not least
community feeling
service follow-up
data mining
product support
early warning
readiness
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?

Just Germanize it!

While tourists in Berlin complain about the lack of signs and information in English, the Germans are now starting to complain about all the Anglicisms in the German language, or more specifically in the Deutsche Bahn’s (German Railroad) language.

It all started when a former school principal made a complaint to his representative in Parliament about the “Kiss&Ride” sign that appeared at the short term parking area at a train station in Bavaria.

The complaint was heard and the Deutsche Bahn made an announcement that they would move away from the Anglicisms they have been using. The list of offenders is not short either:

Call a Bike
Kiss&Ride
flyer
counter
hotline
highlights
Service Point
InterCity Express

Some can stay (Intercity Express), some have to go (hotline) while others will be amended (Call a Bike).

The Call a Bike service will be amended with a German explanation:
“das Mietrad-Angebot der Deutschen Bahn.” I cannot help but wonder why so many German institutions are capable of dreaming up short and snappy English phrases and yet are only able to offer long and cumbersome German alternatives. Perhaps a short and snappy German phrase would make the people more enthusiastic about their own language.

Read more about it in today’s articles on Spiegel Online (German)
or the The Local, Germany’s news in English.

Enter the VIPs

At first I thought it was a practical joke. I thought, that cannot possibly be a word in German. Or in Denglish, I should say. But I hear it more and more often in Berlin and each and every time it is said with a straight face as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

The word is ‘vip’. It rhymes with ‘tip’ and ‘nip’ and ‘sip’ and and and… What it means is V.I.P. In this case the English abbreviation has been adopted into German and turned into a word in the process. It is a word that does not make any sense but no one around here seems to notice that fact.

Mc Mc McDumping

It no doubt started with McDonald’s but where will it end?

McPaper is now one of the most successful office supply and stationary stores in Germany.

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It is a large franchise with stores located all over the country; it is convenient, large, with a full selection, and relatively cheap (or they would have you think so). Those seem to be the concepts now most closely associated with the ‘Mc’ in McDonald’s. Well, it’s one way to explain the plethora of  ‘Mc’ businesses in the city of Berlin. If McPaper is the McDonald’s of the stationary stores, what would that make McClean?

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You may think logically that McClean is a cleaning service or a shop selling cleaning supplies. It is actually the new name given to the public rest rooms found inside Germany’s large train stations. They are certainly large, quite clean, convenient, but anything but cheap. A visit to the immaculate facility will cost you 1.10 € the last time I checked.

A look in the Berlin yellow pages reveals a host of others too:

McBüro- likely McPaper’s biggest competition!

McTrend- fashion and accessories

And then there is the new cheap and convenient fitness studio already with several locations in Berlin: McFit.

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My all-time favorite ‘Mc’ business in Berlin is located in a quiet neighborhood. It is a second-hand store that both buys and sells household products, furniture, knick-knacks or just about anything you would want to get rid of before a move: McDumping!

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Is it already Friday again?

IMG_0047Already Friday again!

This sign got my attention at a mall in Berlin this week.

It just seems wrong. It seems like a sign that you would never actually see in an English-speaking country. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ve been working too hard this week.

Denglish in the Information Age

English is ubiquitous in Berlin. Young people here seem to be in agreement that English words are ‘cool’. Using certain English words is the proof that you are current, hip, trendy, etc. In fact, the ‘Denglish‘ phenomenon, or the Anglicization of the German language, has some people in this country quite worried.

Information technology and the Internet have introduced a whole new slew of ‘Denglish’ words to the German language. The Internet cafes advertise their ‘scannen’ and ‘faxen’ and ‘mail’ services. Of course, ‘mail’ in this case refers to e-mail. Although it comes directly from the English, the German word ‘mail’ should not be confused with the English ‘mail’.

When used in German, the word ‘mail’ refers only to e-mail. For some reason it has adopted the feminine article to become ‘die Mail’. It is not used as a verb the way ‘e-mail’ is in English. If ‘e-mail’ were to slip out while speaking German, I find that most people will not understand you. The same would hold true if a German person speaking English said ‘mail’ – it would be understood to refer to a letter arriving in the mailbox or what is known as ‘Post’ in German, which is quite different from e-mail.

Another example are the short text messages so often sent via cell phone. In English these are referred to as text messages or even just text. The word ‘text’ is already a perfectly valid word in German and could seemingly play the same role as it does in English. Instead those short text messages are called ‘SMS’ in German, which stands for Short Message Service. Most Americans I know have never heard SMS, but of course when Germans say it they think they are speaking English (and are therefore cool). Just as text can be used as a verb in English, SMS is often used in the same way in German, as in ‘I’ll SMS you’.

Though English is ubiquitous in the German-speaking world, many Denglish words still require translation. In fact, those Denglish words can present some of the biggest challenges in a translation. While translating a software licensing contract I encountered a new Denglish word I hadn’t seen before: ‘Softwarestand.’ The meaning in this case was ‘version of software’.

Save the German Language!

Everywhere you turn in Berlin, you are faced with more and more ‘Denglish’ spelled ‘Denglisch’ in German. It refers to the Anglicization of the German language. The signs say ‘Sale’ and ‘Coffee to Go’ and ‘Free’ although it is, of course, possible to express the same things with German words. Thanks to the global reach of the US entertainment industry, the new English vocabulary of the computer-world, and globalization in general, English words and phrases mark shops and companies in Germany as current, trendy, young and hip. And who doesn’t want to be young and hip?

In Europe the backlash is spreading. Many people around the world have heard about the efforts to save the French language. Blog Lingua has written something interesting about the discussion surrounding Denmark’s possible Danish Language Protection Law. Here in Germany there hasn’t been any talk of a law, but instead a group of concerned citizens has come together to declare their love for the German language and to make efforts to save it from extinction. Deutsche Sprachwelt is a platform for everyone who loves language. They print a small newspaper and operate a website. It is an independent platform that exists on donations from readers, but it a group with a real mission.

If you are a lover of the German language, the Deutsche Sprachwelt team has created stickers and they are available from their website free of charge.

If you want your own protest sticker, all you have to do is send an e-mail. They have printed an extra 5000 stickers because of the high-demand. Click on the sticker or here for the link. You can also order a free trial copy of their newspaper from the website.

If we don’t save the languages of the world from the heavy English influence, in the future we translators just may be out of a job.