25 Sep 2017
15 + 1 Unnecessary Anglicisms used in the German language

I like English as much as the next guy. In fact, I am involved in the language training business and English is the main language we teach at our institute (https://www.i-diom.at/). The advantages of learning and using English are familiar: it is practical, has simple grammar and is the lingua franca of millions of people around the world. Still, in the last few years, and with the emergence of social media, I am witnessing a bombardment of English words in the German language and suppose into other languages, too.


I am not a language purist and accept the reality that a language can and should be able to borrow words from another, particularly when there is no precise equivalent in the original version. In fact, in the case of German, we know that 3.7% per cent of its foreign words derive from English and an equal percentage from French.

I am just against extremes in the borrowing of foreign words. Consider this example:

Eben bekomme ich von Customer Care der Deutschen Telekom AG die Message, daß ich jetzt meine Rechnung Online bekomme. Ich kann sie dann downloaden und auf meine Hard Disc storen. Nachdem ich sie auf meinem Laser-Jet geprintet habe, kann ich sie dann dort wieder deleten, damit sie mir nicht zuviel Space wegnimmt. Für künftigen Access habe ich mir sicherheitshalber die URL der WebSite gebookmarkt. Bei Unklarheiten darf ich die Hotline contacten.

Leseprobe aus dem Alltag von Johannes Michalowsky

Even though the English words above have been beautifully conjugated into German, I am sure there must be plenty German synonyms available to avoid such a language “salad”.


Even French speakers, well-known for their heroic, but losing battle against the use of any other words other than French ones, have come up with verbal contortions such as le must and luncher for Must und lunchen. What about le shampooing, le lifting and le fooding (Essen im Restaurant) – not to confuse this with le footing (Joggen)? They have also come up with funny creations such as le baby-foot (Tischfußball), talkie-walkie (Handfunkgerät, or walkie-talkie in English) and le recordman (Rekordhalter).

Today, especially the young and trendy seem to use more English when communicating in German just to convey knowledge, modernity, glamour, internationalization and globalization. But, are they more global and better members of the community, when they use Anglicisms with an audience circumscribed to German speakers?


My own language salad

In modern times, a high potential finds things cool and goes to a fitness center with his trendy T-Shirt not before having grabbed a coffee-to-go along the way. Sometimes, his training hours will be gecancelled, but that can happen any time he needs to go to a kick-off-meeting because he has just gelaunched a startup. When he finally arrives to his get together, he will need “a business break where he can grab his “handy” and send an SMS to his Customer Relationship Management so that they can improve their elevator pitch to their feisty business angels. In the evening, he will chill out during the Happy hour offered in the Cocktail Lounge at an After-Work Party – provided it is not Lady´s Night. Wow! This promising entrepreneur is going places!

Yes, we also use Anglicisms with a wrong meaning — such as “handy” — which, as we know, does not mean a phone in English, but means that something is practical or at hands-reach.

I am sure that we could all create our own list of unnecessary Anglicisms used in German. The sky would be the limit. Nevertheless, here you have the “15 + 1” I promised you:

  1. Slow Motion – Zeitlupe
  2. Special Effects – Spezialeffekte
  3. Visual Effects – Visuelle Effekte
  4. Story – Handlung
  5. Sound – Ton
  6. Original-Score – Filmmusik
  7. Song – Lied
  8. Movie Award – Filmpreis
  9. posten – schreiben
  10. downloaden – herunterladen
  11. Deadline – Einsendeschluss
  12. Mouse – Maus
  13. Keyboard – Tastatur
  14. Social Network – Soziales Netzwerk
  15. Meeting – Sitzung


The one additional Anglicism missing from our list

During the first part of his government, our former Austrian chancellor, Wolfgang Schussel, said these memorable words: “Was wir brauchen is mehr Leadership.” My immediate reaction was, why, instead of Leadership not simply use the word Fuhrung? To those that remind me of the uncomfortable linguistic and historical associations implied, I can only repeat that the war was over seventy years ago!

No, what we need is not more Anglicisms but more courage to use German words whenever they are appropriate and available.

What unnecessary Anglicisms in the German language can you list?


Über den Autor: Carlos Aleson ist der Leiter von i-diom, einem in Österreich ansässigen Institut, welches auf Sprach- und Kommunikationstraining spezialisiert ist.

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