From the Mouth of Maddox: Verein Deutsche Sprache, want to join?

You almost certainly will not have heard of the Verein Deutsche Sprache, unless you are German, then maybe you have, but for those of us who are new to knowledge of this the illustrious club, it’s basically a slightly less uptight version of L’Académie française, who spend their time panicking and then lambasting the influx of English words into their beloved language. The upshot of L’Académie française’s quest is that they have created words in French to avoid using English ones: ”courrier électronique” instead of email, like the rest of the world and “ordinateur” as opposed to computer, for example. I get why the French do this, I do, they are hardly our biggest fans, and who can blame them considering our shared history. The Verein Deutsche Sprache are worried, sure, but they aren’t being so, well, French about it.

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There are good reasons for the VDS to have some concerns as the English language is indeed being utilised more and more in German. I still find it baffling when I see and advert for a German product in Germany using English words. Now, I know English is a bit more “cool” due to its dominance in the world of mainstream music and film, but Germany waits a few more days for a film to have it dubbed, unlike a lot of other European nations. However, with a vast chunk of the internet in English as well as the majority of cool music, more and more young Germans are exposed to it from an earlier age. These whipper-snappers are also armed with the knowledge that if they want to travel the world, it is a much safer bet to learn English as their travelling tongue. Unless, of course, all they want to explore is Austria and parts of Switzerland, then there’s no need. Also, for work in Germany, English is becoming more and more essential (hence why Nic and myself are both teaching here) and each year an increased number of companies deem English to be their “official language” – Audi did just that this very year.

So, if you want to listen to and understand “cool” music, travel the world and get a good job at a multinational company, you need English. The VDS knows this and doesn’t have too much of an issue with it, what they have an issue with is the invasion of the English language into German which creates the feared “Denglish”. Street-wise young teenies with hip-hop hats and crazy neon kicks ruddy love this stuff, it is very much “their” language, one that differentiates them from their stuffy parents who roll their eyes when their kid says “die Aircondition” instead of the true German “die Klimaanlage”. In a way though, I am with the VDS, I see no need for English words in another language when there is an existing word that is being replaced. It’s not like “zeitgeist” replaced an English word, we didn’t have one for it, so we nabbed it from German and both parties went on quite happily. However, saying “Kaffee to go” instead of “Kaffee zum mitnehmen”, as it should be in true German does indeed grind my gears a bit, as I am sure it does the members of the VDS.

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So, I thought we could have a look at some of the prime cuts of modern Denglish:

Denglish German
Der Airport Der Flughafen
Die Audio-CD Digitaler Tonträger
Das Baby Das Säugling
Der Beamer Der Video-Projektor
Das Business Das Geschäft
Der Chewinggum Der Kaugummi
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Die Fitness Das Wohlbefinden
Die Highheels Stöckelschuhe
Die High Society Die vornehme Gesellschaft
Das info Die Auskunft
Der Juice Der Saft
Der Killer Der Mörder
Die Lovestory Der Liebengeschichte
Das Management Die Geschäftsführung
Das Online-Banking Die Internet-Kontoführung

Now, as an English speaker, I know this makes things a lot easier. I can say “online banking” no problem, whereas “Internet-Kontoführung” is a bit more difficult to get my tongue around, but nonetheless I appreciate where the VDS are coming from, perfectly good German words are being replaced by an invading language. What can the VDS do though? Very little, that’s what. L’Académie française have tried and failed to stop the influx of the English language but the vast majority of French speakers will say “email”. Languages are alive and subject to change, we know this to be true, “headfuck” now being an official Oxford English Dictionary word illustrates this beautifully, as much of a headfuck as that is. The VDS can fight the brave fight but little young things won’t listen and will go on using Denglish to show that they are young and because they bloody can.

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I love language and enjoy utilising words that excite me and titillate the senses, words are so utterly beautiful and joyous in their variety and range and this is what I fear is really being damaged by Denglish, the loss of possible progress and organic growth of the German language. To be in a position where people look at English and think “sod it, that’ll do.” is no attitude for the preservation and expansion of a language, it is the recipe for the stifling of it. 

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