[lg policy] Angst In Germany Over Invasion Of American English

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 16 16:13:37 UTC 2014

 Angst In Germany Over Invasion Of American English

  March 14, 2014 2:03 PM
     4 min 22 sec


   [image: America and German flags as puzzle pieces.]

It seems hardly a sentence is spoken in Berlin that doesn't have an
American English word in it.

One word that especially grates -- and I confess to a certain bias, having
learned German as a toddler when it wasn't so Americanized -- is a word
pronounced "sogh-ee." Or, as Americans say it, "sorry."

*"Sogh-ee" your package is late. *

*"Sogh-ee" your hot water is off.*

*"Sogh-ee" we can't help you.*
 More American English Words Germany Has Borrowed

Baby -- to refer to an infant

Campen -- to camp



Downloaden -- as to download on a computer

Party -- as in a festivity

Seifenoper -- literally translated means soap opera


Team -- as in a sports team


Wellness -- to refer to a spa

Anatol Stefanowitsch, an English linguistics professor at the Free
University of Berlin, says it makes sense that many German businesses have
adopted that word.

"I mean, 'sorry' is quite a useful way of apologizing because it doesn't
commit you to very much. It's very easy to say 'sorry.' The closest
equivalent would be *Entschuldigung*, which is, 'I apologize,' "
Stefanowitsch says. "That's really like admitting that you've done
something wrong, whereas with saying 'sorry,' you could also just be
expressing empathy: 'I'm so sorry for you, but it has nothing to do with
me.' "

"Sorry" is one of more than 10,000 American words Germans have borrowed
since 1990. Language experts here say English is the main foreign language
that has influenced German over the past six decades. This cultural
infusion is pervasive, with English used by journalists, by scientists and
even at the highest levels of government.

"Germany doesn't really have a very purist attitude to language -- unlike
France, where you have an academy whose task it is to find French
alternatives for borrowings; or if there is a new technology that needs to
be named, then the academy will find a name," Stefanowitsch says.
 More From NPR
 [image: "It's on the left," he says. "No, it's southeast of here," she
   [image: "Tea" (a social word from the 17th century) is one of the words
David Crystal examines in his book The Story of English In 100 Words.]

Even purely domestic enterprises like the German rail system are getting
into the English game. Christian Renner, waiting at Berlin's main station
for a train home to Frankfurt, says it's useful to know English words if
you want to find a waiting area.

"I'm not sure if calling it a 'lounge' is better than using the German word
'*warteraum*,' " Renner says. "I guess it's more modern or hip."

Also confusing to some German passengers is the word for the main ticket
"center," instead of the German word "z*entrum*."

To some language experts, like Holger Klatte, the widespread
Americanization of German is problematic. Klatte is the spokesman for the
German Language Society, which has 36,000 members worldwide.

" Languages do tend to affect one another, but the influence of English in
Germany is so strong that Germans are having a hard time advancing their
own vocabulary.

- Holger Klatte of the German Language Society

"Languages do tend to affect one another, but the influence of English in
Germany is so strong that Germans are having a hard time advancing their
own vocabulary," he says.

Klatte says that can be a problem for Germans who may not know any English.

"The second world war and Nazi times have led Germans to downplay the
importance of their language," he says. "Unlike the French, Finns and Poles
-- they promote their languages a lot more than we do."

Stefanowitsch believes this linguistic angst -- a word that migrated from
German to English -- is overblown. He says a quarter of all German words are
borrowed from other languages. That's more than what's found in Mandarin
Chinese, but far less than the 40 to 80 percent seen in English, he says.

Plus Germans integrate the words they borrow -- for example the suffix
"-gate," as in Watergate, which was voted last year's Anglicism of the year
in Germany. Stefanowitsch says it has been used, among other things, to
describe the NSA spying scandal on the German chancellor as "Merkel-gate."

"Borrowing doesn't mean that a language loses its vitality. It's an
addition of creativity. No language has ever disappeared because it
borrowed words," Stefanowitsch says.

But he says there are pitfalls to overdoing Americanized German.

Take, for example, the word "handy," which is what Germans call their
cellphones. Stefanowitsch says people here assume it's an English word, and
it may have come from the word "handheld" to distinguish it from car phones
when cellular technology was relatively new.

He says the danger to such made-up words is that Germans could end up using
them when trying to speak actual English.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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