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’.