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The English Words in the German Language

English in German LanguageDid you know that Germans have a marked preference for adding English words into the German language? Yes indeed, and not just since the internet made the round and conquered the world. There are two expressions that describe this phenomenon – Anglicism and the other more German one – Denglisch (German version) Denglish (English version).

Anglicism is the English language influence and impact on other languages (according to Wiki).

Denglisch just refers to a mix of German and English words and expressions within the German language. Wiki explains it as ‘”an influx of English, or pseudo-English, vocabulary into the German language through travel and English’s widespread usage in advertising, business and iInformation technology are Gerglish, Angleutsch and Engleutsch.”

When I grew up I learned words like pullover, teenager, t-shirt and TV. As a teenager, I and my friends found it very attractive to express ourselves in English. Words like “cool”, “partyen” and “relaxen” belonged to our daily vocabulary. Most of our ‘cool’ English expressions came from English speaking songs as there was no internet or English speaking TV program yet. Our parents mostly shook their heads. My parents never learned English at school and found it hard to keep up with the constant influx of new English words into the language.

I still remember one day when my mom was reading ads in the newspaper and wondered what a “Monteinbieke” is (had to spell it in German :-)). I looked puzzled first, then took the paper myself and figured out that it actually was a ‘mountain bike’. I knew then that this was getting to a point of ridiculousness.

These days Germans almost need to have learned English in order to still understand the media, advertising industry and politics in Germany. Several years ago my mom finally bought an English – German dictionary to keep up with this crazy trend.

Of course a lot of words related to computer technology, the internet, the software industry came from the English language as countries like America were the trend setter in these industries. In some cases there didn’t even any German words exist for the English expressions. Examples are ‘internet’, ‘software’, ‘to surf’…just to mention a few.

But Germans also adapted words where we had had German expressions in the past. Instead of  ‘eine Firmenmarke’ we now have a ‘brand’ , ‘eine Schönheit’ is now a ‘beauty’ and ‘eine Veranstaltung’ is an ‘event’ today. The first Denglish dictionaries popped up over the past years, which indicates that this trend is going to stay.

German is a beautiful, deep and complex language. Goethe, Brecht, Schiller, Lessing, Grass and other German poets used it to create beautiful, lasting masterpieces of literature out of it.

Living in the US as a German is a constant struggle – not only to improve my English but to also maintain my German as clean as possible. Seeing my fellow countrymen then using all that English because it may sound better and feels more hip saddens me.

You can imagine if English all the sudden got invaded by a bunch of Spanish, French or even Chinese words? You would start to wonder at some point what may become out of your mother tongue. I find myself in the same situation wondering what the German language will look like in 20, 50 or 100 years. Will there be a German language left or just Denglish?

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  • Kay Lorraine April 25, 2010, 6:06 PM

    This was fascinating. I had no idea that English words were working themselve into the German language. And I loved, loved, LOVED the video performance. Are these guys popular musical artists in Germany? They were amazing! Thank you for sharing this……

    Warmest aloha,
    Kay Lorraine
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    Reply
    • German Coach April 25, 2010, 8:31 PM

      Kay,

      Thanks for your positive feedback. I appreciate it.
      The Wise Guys are probably not as big as Nena, the Scorpions or other big time German artists. But they have their place in the German music scene. Right now, Germany sees a comeback of old 80’s music with Heiko & Maiko, in techno Blümchen and German Rock with Unheilig. You can check them out on Youtube.

      Reply
  • Kristina April 26, 2010, 9:55 AM

    I could imagine that the tendencies to incorporate English words into the Germany language can be found in history. About 1000 years ago the Anglo Saxons took up residence in Germany and invaded England. That was the point where the language splitt. In England generations of Anglo Saxons evolved the language into English, in Germany/Austria/Switzerland it became German. Languages in Belgium and Denmark are also speak dialects of German/English. In Northern Germany speak a German dialect closer to English, while in Southern Germany other dialects influence the German language. Just as evolution splitt the languages it seems that now the languages are moving slowly back together.
    I notice the trend every time I go on vacation in Germany. Growing up there were a few English words in the German language, now I feel that if I did not know English I would not understand the news anymore. It is a little sad to see German words being replaced by English ones, however, globalization was never as prominent as it is now.

    Reply
  • Thelma G. April 28, 2010, 9:40 AM

    Thank you for sharing the videos and thought in this matter. I love the German language, I am crazy about it. “Language brings us closer together” to my opinion. I don’t speak fluent for I am not born there and I don’t use it here in the U.S. but I use it on the Internet to communicate to friends around the world who speaks it.

    Reply
  • Travel Offers January 11, 2011, 3:40 PM

    Hi I like this article and it was so informational and I am definetly going to bookmark it. One thing to say the Indepth analysis you have done is trully remarkable.Who goes that extra mile these days? Well Done! Just another tip you shouldinstall a Translator for your Global Readers !!!

    Reply
  • Jim Morton January 11, 2011, 5:41 PM

    I remember how disappointed I was to find out that Jet lag in German was Jetlag. I was hoping from something really German sounding like “Düsenflugzeugverzögern.” 😀

    Reply
  • Tim Wall Street March 26, 2011, 4:48 PM

    Especially the internet is influencing the German language. I like your blog. Very interesting!!!!

    Reply
  • Kevin Mason June 28, 2017, 8:19 PM

    Here’s the real problem. All these English words coming into German, are arriving not as complete foreigners, but rather as long lost language family-cousins. English and German both are, in fact Germanic languages.The English loan words just seem to fit in better than French or Latin loan words in a German sentence.They even look more like they belong cozily in German because of the occasional “k” and “w” they sport. Even the verb tense conjugation is similar, thus the one I find amazing : “downgeloadet.”

    Reply