Badly Borrowed English

Badly Borrowed English
Badly Borrowed English

This article is written in English, due to the fact that the majority of the internet’s communication and information is written in English. Though it can be argued that this is partially because of Anglo-American economic and cultural hegemony, the fact is that English is the language of business as well as the international lingua franca. Internationalization and globalization have only served to further enforce and entrench this tendency as English has started to permeate new markets and languages.

In the Americas, instances of linguistic hybridization between English and Spanish are commonly referred to as “Spanglish,” or “Franglish/Franglais,” in case where French and English are mixed together. The phenomenon of fusing native languages with English elements takes many shapes and forms. Sometimes this intercultural exchange can be completed quite sophistically creating some unique and fitting expressions for a phenomenon that formerly was only inadequately described. In other instances, however, mixing English and another language produces truly adventurous terms if not to say some grueling linguistic concoctions that should have rather be left unspoken.

One country famous both for their love of English expressions and their ability to produce particularly troubling examples of hybrid terms is Germany. Germans even have their very own name for their new language; they call it “Denglisch” or “Neudeutsch.” In “Denglisch” Germans refer to a mobile phone as a “Handy”, a television program host as a “Showmaster” and a male model as a “Dressman.” In addition to such inventive nouns, newly formed verbs, borrowed by English language and mainly related to the Internet and IT business, are used by Germans on a daily basis. Verbs such as “checken,” “browsen,” “chatten,” “launchen,” “outsourcen,” “layouten,” “highlighten,” and “downloaden,”have been appropriated by German speakers and casually adjusted to fit the syntactic structure of the German language. Unfortunately, an English speaker might find these newly created terms quite confusing as they often changed meaning in the process of being adapted to German use. Similarly, German speakers not familiar with the growing “Denglish” vocabulary will be at a loss attempting to decipher these hybrid terms.

To deal with the growing communication problems caused by this English invasion of the German language, recent and expanding initiatives are being enacted in order to curb the influences of “Denglisch” and end the confusion caused by it. The latest campaign, launched by Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s largest transportation and railroad company, seeks to return to a solely German language vocabulary in their customer relations. Though it may seem far-fetched to reintroduce the Germans to the German language, the purpose behind the 2,200 phrase booklet that Deutsche Bahn is introducing is to replace the use of “Denglisch” phrases, such as “rail and fly” used for a train connection to the airport, with the corresponding German phrases.

The Deutsche Bahn effort is by no means the only campaign meaning to teach proper German to Germans these days. Members of the German Academy for Language and Poetry and the Institute for the German Language are taking part in similar initiatives aiming to limit the penetration of English language into the German fields of science and research. If these programs intended to promote the autarchy of the German language, what will this mean for German businesses?

Simply put, communication will be made simpler by a return to the status quo ante. What “Denglisch” has done is to promote a hybridized language with very few set definitions and usage rules; a factor that clearly contributes to its insufficient ability to bridge social demarcation lines. By limiting or reversing its usage and development as well as filling the void with standard German, understanding and accurately translating the exact meaning of a message will be increased. Given, this does nothing to directly impact Anglophones; however, by using two standardized languages, English-German and German-English translations will be made significantly easier, aiding in better understanding for all parties.

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