Germany: Conservatives Declare War on Unnecessary English

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Mar 31 13:53:49 UTC 2007

Conservatives Declare War on Unnecessary English

English names like "Service Point" for a railway info counter are
confusing to some A group of center-right politicians said German is being
inundated with Anglicisms that make life difficult for those without a
grasp of English.  They're calling on the government and industry to stick
to "Deutsch." The Christian Union faction in the Bundestag said there is
no reason why people should be at a loss in shops or railway stations in
Germany simply because they have not studied English. A group of
politicians has begun an initiative on Tuesday to encourage both the
government and businesses to dispense with unnecessary English, which they
say can lead to confusion or incomprehension.

"We can see that more and more people are being excluded from daily
communication," said Erika Steinbach, the Christian Democratic Union's
(CDU) human rights spokesperson.  She said that advertising in particular
is increasingly being written in English and is not understood by a large
percentage of population, especially the elderly, immigrants from
non-English-speaking countries, and Germans from the former East Germany,
where Russian was generally studied as a foreign language instead of
English. She and other conservative politicians pointed to the German rail
system, Deutsche Bahn, as a particularly egregious example of unnecessary
English usage. The company often uses English terms for its service
offerings, such as "Service Point" for its information counters at rail
stations, "Surf & Rail" for special Internet-only ticketing, or
"Call-a-Bike" for its bicycle rental service.

One-third 'excluded'

According to the group behind the initiative, which is calling itself
"Consumer Language Protection," some 33 percent of people in German do not
understand English. While this part of the population might be perplexed
at the train station or outside a cafe offering "coffee to go," the use of
English in some situations could even be dangerous, such as when a label
on a space heater says "do not cover" only in English or when a sign in a
taxi says "please fasten your seatbelt" instead of Bitte anschnallen.
 Steinbach said she realized English use was too widespread in Germany
when she saw an older woman confronted with the word "sale" in a shop
window, and thought the store was referring to a river. The woman was also
perplexed at by the signs talking about the "news" or the latest "special
offer." She pointed to a 2003 survey showing that more than one half of
the 1,100 people between the ages of 14 and 49 polled could not correctly
translate various advertising slogans in English. "This isn't about German
jingoism," CDU cultural spokesperson Gitta Connemann told the dpa news
agency. "It's about the daily usage of the German language."

Parliamentary motion

The Union bloc is hoping to get its center-left colleagues from the Social
Democratic Party (SPD) on board and present a parliamentary proposal that
would call on business and the government to communicate in understandable
German. The motion would have three goals: to require the government to
write its laws, official statements and other documents and signs in clear
German;  to ask industries owned or partially owned by the government to
describe their products in offerings in German; and to ask private
businesses to ensure that their operation manuals and guarantees are
presented to consumers auf Deutsch. "We would be happy if terms were done
away with that lead to misinformation," said Christian Fronczak,
spokesperson for Germany's consumer protection association.

The initiative has also been hailed by the Association of the German
Language, a 27,000-member-strong organization that has long complained of
the creeping Anglicization of German. Gerd Schrammer, the group's
spokesperson, told the newsmagazine Stern that while his group has long
feared that English words could turn German into an "ugly gibberish," the
defense against Anglicisms has a political dimension as well. "Every
English word that we use is a genuflection in front of the ruling world
power, the USA," he said.,2144,2413275,00.html


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list