It started off with just a few. The few became more. Now it’s everywhere.
No matter whether you listen to the radio, watch TV, look around in shops and supermarkets or have a casual conversation – it won’t be long before it’s staring you in the face: Denglish.
Denglish, silly. It’s a hybrid language that combines Deutsch (German) and English. The term is used pejoratively and specifically refers to people using too many English words in German. It also includes English grammar and orthography that have found their way into the German sphere.
Languages have always come into contact with each other, not just German and English obviously. That means one language naturally has an effect on the other. The problem is that German has been degenerating into this jumble of German and English because English words are overused.
One area where this “denglification” excessively occurs is in business, marketing and advertising speak:
- Mir fehlt der added value – there’s no added value
- Ich möchte über die Milestones ein zuverlässiges Reporting erhalten – I would like to receive reliable reports about our milestones
- Ich finde direktes Feedback face-to-face extrem wichtig – I think face-to-face feedback is extremely important
- Beim Kick-off-Event werden unsere neuesten Highlights vorgestellt – The kick-off event will introduce all our latest highlights
But you can hear and read it anywhere really:
- Ich würde sagen, das machen wir, just in case – I’d say we do it, just in case
- Das ist total over the top, einfach nur crazy – That’s completely over the top and just crazy
- Der kommt vielleicht wieder, you never know – He might come back, you never know
- Komm, lass uns bei mir chillen – Come on, let’s chill at mine
I know. Breathe.
In all these cases, the English words could be replaced with German words. So why aren’t they?
Where does this fixation come from? Why do people mix in English words although there’s a perfectly good German word for it? Do people want to come across as cool, more knowledgeable? Do they want to feel like they belong? Be part of a group so they blindly follow other people? I think they do.
Like with anything, there are exceptions to the rule. Sometimes an English word works better, for example when it comes to technology-related terms such as smartphone and cloud. Another time an English word describes something more precisely and comprehensively. In COVID 2020, lockdown is a good example. There’s no word in German that covers all aspects of what a lockdown entails.
When new words are coined, German is very quick to adopt the English version. Why is it that no one bothers to be a bit inventive and come up with a German term? Is it out of sheer laziness or is English more creative? That might be true to some extent, but in other cases just an excuse.
As a purist, I think that Germans should cherish their language and ditch as many anglicisms as possible. And for anyone who loves English and doesn’t want to do without it: just speak English 😉
Are you as critical as me about this development and where it’s going? Or are you perhaps a proud speaker of the Denglish language? In which case we can have a healthy discussion in the comments!