Language focus | 14.01.2010

The rise of anglicisms in the German language

Order a German translation from The Translation People and you may be surprised to spot the occasional English word in the file we deliver. Thanks to the import of English language films and television programmes, and rise of the internet in the past decade, an increasing number of anglicisms are finding their way into the German language.

It is no surprise that these changes to the language originate principally in youth culture and the greatest objection, as documented in a recent survey, is amongst the over sixties. However, the use of English words in German is by no means a new phenomenon and can be seen in written language dating back over 100 years. In these instances, loanwords have not only been adopted by the general public, but have been adapted to fit the German grammatical system in such a way that they no longer seem foreign. It is now such a well known and well documented trend, that linguists have coined the expression “Denglisch” (a hybrid word, the first part of which comes from the German word for the German language: “Deutsch”) to describe it. Of course, language is in a constant state of flux and linguistic influences work both ways with the same expression used to refer to German words in the English language.

Many loan words originate from new technology and are therefore particularly prevalent in texts relating to the IT or media industries. As English dominates the software industry and many providers use English terminology in their interfaces, it is no surprise that “downloaden” is now more commonly used than “herunterladen”, or “Update” is preferred to “Aktualisierung”.

Globalisation has also changed the world of advertising, with fast food retailers and beauty product manufactures, to name a few examples, now preferring to use English slogans that are internationally recognisable. Whilst some research suggests that this has a negative effect on prospective buyers, marketing trends suggest otherwise. Increasing numbers of organisations have abandoned “Kundendienst” for “Support Hotlines” or “Help Desks” and often use the English word for their product in advertisements.

In a commercial world that is now shaped by global brands and where English is the accepted lingua franca, anglicisms are likely to increase in number in many languages, including German. And as it does, the debate between language purists and those in favour of internationalization will continue.

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