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Should the German language use English words?

The question of the introduction of anglicisms into foreign languages is not new, it has long been a polemic, controversial topic about which many feel strongly. Words such as “le weekend”, “das Marketing” and “un hobby” spring to mind. Recently, German linguists have expressed fears that the introduction of more and more English vocabulary could be dangerous for the future of the German language.

The German Language Association, Verein Deutsche Sprache (VDS), makes monthly updates to its “Anglicism Index” to include English words that have been recently incorporated into the German spoken word. They then suggest German alternatives for these words. Recent additions to the VDS list include “follower” and “live-stream”, words for which there also exist German equivalents.

Opinion is currently divided regarding the threat that the introduction of English words carries to the German language. VDS spokesman, Holger Klatte, recently commented: “Particularly in the areas of technology, medicine, the internet and the economy, English is becoming ever more important.” He also stated: “There are not enough new German words being invented, and many people find they are excluded from the conversation because they can’t understand it.”

Not everyone is in agreement with VDS and the threat English poses to the German language. The Managing Director of the Society for the German Language (Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache), Andrea-Eva Ewels, comments that “only 1%-3% of the average German’s vocabulary of 5,000 words is made up of anglicisms.” This Society believes that the inclusion of English vocabulary enhances the German language, rather than harming it. However, the public in Germany seem to be on the side of VDS, with 39% of interviewees questioned in 2008 confirming their opposition to anglicisms.

There are a handful of foreign words that we use in English, such as “déjà vu”, “siesta” and “rendezvous”. How would we feel if more and more foreign words were introduced into our everyday vocabulary? The most important question that this discussion and debate poses is surely: why use an English word when a German word will suffice? Is there a benefit to incorporating a new English word into the language, in place of the equivalent German? Let us know what you think…

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