How important is it today to speak the English language fluently or at least understand it? It may be one of the most important things when you want to apply for a job. In other words, speaking English is no longer considered as something special, it is a requirement. Nowadays the English language has definitely become a global lingua franca. Speaking English makes it possible to communicate with people all over the world and from many different cultures. As a result English has come to have a large influence on a multitude of other languages, especially in Europe where many words have been adopted outright.
by Marcell Haller
Anglisicms: Borrowed Words in the English Language
English borrowed words that are used in other languages are called Anglicisms. An Anglicism is a word, phrase, or idiom characteristic of or peculiar to the English language[i]. Most Anglicisms were adopted in the IT field or other areas where new technology is developed. Due to the rapidness with which technology changes, some countries tend to just adopt the English words for new technology and developments into their native language rather than coining a new native term. The names for some new inventions and developments are often very hard to translate, and therefore it is convenient to simply keep the original English name (e.g. cloud computing).
If we take a look at the Spanish language we can find many words which are borrowed, including: downloadear (to download) and updatear (to update). Many people in Spain tend to say soporte técnico instead of asistencia técnica (the official term) when they are speaking about technical support, and the use of the term global instead of mundial is becoming more and more common. In many languages there is a native word for computer, but most people prefer to use the English word. The invasion of English terminology has even made it into the fashion industry as these headlines quoted from a Spanish fashion magazine show: “El look mas Hippy” and “Homeless Style.” It is very easy for a monolingual English speaker to understand these phrases.
There are also many Anglicisms which have infiltrated the German language, such as Computer, Scanner, Adapter, Aftershave, Airline, Alien (only in the sense of an extraterrestrial), Baby, Band, Hacker, Jackpot … the list is endless. Some of these terms have no German equivalent, like Scanner or Adapter. That’s because when these things became available in Germany their English names were simply borrowed into German. But many of these terms have an actual German equivalent which has been around for years. Aftershave is Rasierwasser, Airline is Fluggesellschaft and an Alien is called Außerirdischer. We can see that the Germans have not only borrowed newer terms, they also replaced some of the common German words with English ones. The Germans call these English terms which have entered into their everyday language Neologisms. Some Neologisms, however, have come to have a completely different meaning from that of the source language.
Neologisms: The Invasion of the English Language
It is not easy to explain why the Germans love to use new English terms in place of a German word, especially when they have a different meaning than in English. For example the “German” word for a “projector” is a “beamer” (a native English speaker would probably think this refers to a BMW car), German cell phones are called “handies”, and an USB flash-drive is an “USB Stick”. English-originated words have become extremely prevalent in Germany. This is understandable for words which do not exist in German. But why do they use English for words which already have a German equivalent?
Maybe it’s an attempt to sound younger and smarter, and perhaps there is a belief that using English makes a company sound modern. But there is a point when the coining of English terms becomes absurd. For example, in 2006 when Germany was the host of the FIFA World Cup, a new kind of public entertainment was developed. They built huge screens, like those used at music festivals, on the streets and squares of the bigger cities to broadcast the soccer matches. A very good idea…but was it also a good idea to call this event “public viewing”?
English has invaded German, and other languages, to the point that people have named these blended languages – a mix of German and English is called Denglisch, a mix with French is Franglais, and a mix with Spanish is Spanglish. Denglisch in particular has become so prevalent that one only needs to look at a speech by Hilmar Kopper, former chairman of the Deutsche Bank, to see how far it has infiltrated: “…jeder muss im job permanently seine intangible assets mit high risk neu relaunchen und seine skills so posten, dass die benefits alle ratings sprengen, damit der cash-flow stimmt. Wichtig ist corporate-identity, die mit perfect customizing und eye-catchern jedes Jahr geupdatet wird!“ The only two terms which could be considered actual business terminology are “cash-flow” and “corporate-identity.” All the other English terms have a German equivalent.
Influence on the English Language
Although English has had a large influence on many languages, it has also been greatly influenced by other languages. It is estimated that over 80% of the English vocabulary has been borrowed from other languages [v]. Many of these borrowed words have become so common that we don’t even notice them as foreign any more. For example, kindergarden, gesundheit, angst, kaput, delicatessen, or schedenfreude[vi] from German, government, royal, confession, couch, carol, or melody[vii] from French, or armada, cafeteria, or coyote[viii] from Spanish
The question is how important it is to preserve your own native language. Languages have never been static and have always been changing. Depending on the century languages were influenced by Latin or French and today we use foreign words without feeling that we are destroying our native language. Instead, these words have simply been adopted into our own language.
In the end it’s in our hands which words we use from other languages and which ones we continue to use in our native language.
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