Why you Can't Control Language

Don’t Worry about Denglish or Anglicisms

I was asked, what I though about denglish and the anglification of the German language. Here are my thoughts on these topics:

Language is a living thing and is constantly (!) developing. Trying to control and regulate it is doomed to fail. All we can do is to analyze it and to try to understand it so that we can teach it to a certain degree. Trying to “protect” a language from new words is simply impossible, no matter how many regulatory boards you invoke. It also is a sign of fear of change and therefore of life. In my 40 years of existence I can guarantee you that life means constant change whether we like it or not. And I base that notion not only on my own experience. Just ask around and try to find someone who hasn’t changed since he or she was born. Let’s observe. No one is forced to use a certain word if he doesn’t like it. And no one ever should be. To forbid words or whole languages is a tool of dictatorships and therefore oppression. And I am so not a friend of these.

Denglish in Advertisements

Adverts are used to raise attention and address a specific crowd. I don’t see a problem here. Re-naming an “Information” at the Bahnhof into a “Service Point” could cause trouble to those who really don’t speak any English (while “Information” would be easily understood by English-speaking travellers) and therefore might not have been a wise choice. But also here, feedback is everything. If the Deutsche Bahn realises that there are less information-requests since the change, they might rename it again. If not, well… we are stuck with “Information Point”. While that is not the Denglish  it is related and also in the eye of those who claim to want to “protect” the German language.

A Language is under constant construction - There is no such thing as pure German
der Duschkopf / Image by Pixabay

Babel reverted – The Future of Languages

One more thing that comes to my mind: the fact that languages are constantly being developed – which is a nicer term for Denglish – is a sign of evolution. It is extremely inefficient to keep 250 different languages up (not counting in the endless number of dialects). Just consider the costs for all the translations we need to communicate internationally. All the literature that is lost to billions of people, all the knowledge and wisdom. Consider the costs of mistakes in business due to cultural misunderstandings, which very often are strongly related to language issues.
If we are going to make it on this planet (or others) together we will have to speak and write (more or less) the same language one day, whatever that language will be called by then. I will not live long enough to witness this, neither will you, but this is the future of any (!) language despite all resistance. And I wouldn’t worry about the loss of diversity. I’m certain those who come after us will find a way to distinguish themselves sufficiently or just be fine with being all the same. I can’t see that far into the future with my crystal ball and it is “müßig” to think about it at this place.

What do you think? Could you make sense of the following German words from the technical world? You’ll find the answers on this page.

A Little Deutschtümler*-Quiz

  1. Klapprechner
  2. Prallkissen
  3. Thesenpapier
  4. drahtloser Internetzugangspunkt
  5. Ideendiagramm
  6. vermittelnder Netzwerkknoten
  7. Schnüffelprogramm
  8. Echtzeitdatenstrom
  9. Berührungsbildschirm
  10. Denkrunde
  11. Netzwart
  12. Straßenfeger
  13. Netzverbund (you will never guess this one)

* A “Deutschtümler” is someone who wants to be hyper-German.


3 responses to “Why you Can't Control Language”

  1. thanks many times for your answer, Michael aka Denkmuskel! Yes, I have just today thought the same and also our Large Duden has not the last:-) “Pestkontrolle”LOL It looks not any more German, sooner “Engleutsch”, or?

    As teacher too, I must to tell my students “Hey, you people! Language change.” May be as well it takes longer outside words to (verdeutschen?? how is this please in English?) as for French words, because French have been influenced more in our country than American.

  2. I lack sometimes the “original” German word. The English or Denglish phrase sounds to me still strange and I cannot be a friend so much to it!

    Yes sure, a language is like a plant and she needs also water, only may be have we overpoured it, for example, I read now on-line “Pestkontrolle” in the place of “Schaedlingsbekaempfungsdienst”.
    There give so, so many different examples.

    Sounds not the original German better?

    Michael “der Denglischmuffel”

    • What “sounds” nice or what doesn’t is strongly influenced by our interpretation of things, by our conclusions. The point is exactly that you are free to use any ! word you like and not to try to tell others what to use (with language that doesn’t really work so well anyhow). One thing many fashistoid governments try to oppress is the use of the language of the enemy. You can’t really control a language and you shouldn’t. Hence, feel free to use “Schädlingsbekämpfungsdienst” instead of Pestkontrolle. Obwohl selbst google das Wort nicht wirklich findet: https://www.google.de/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=pestkontrolle

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