The Effects of English on German Advertisement

Term Paper, 2005

17 Pages, Grade: 1,0



I. Introduction

II. The effects of no English on German advertisement
1. Recognizability
2. Tradition
3. Locality
4. Technicality
5. Another dominating language
6. The German printing press

III. The effects of English on German advertisement
1. English implies more
2. Technology
3. Internationality
4. American culture
5. Two poles
6. Two notions in one

IV. The degree of English in German ads
1. Different levels
2. Keeping it simple
3. CompoundLanguage
4. Word monsters

V. Conclusion

I. Introduction

Gemanagte Dachfonds

Die Office in your Pocket-Lösung

Power ist nichts ohne Kontrolle

To any native English speaker, the slogans above have to seem remarkable, mostly because of the obvious mix of English and German. What might be most remarkable about them, however, is the “very lack of remarkability with which they are received” (Kelly-Holmes 67) by German consumers when they are encountered as parts of magazine advertisements. Along with numerous other examples, these three items were extracted from the acclaimed weekly German news magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ in order to get a clear picture of which effects English has and which role it plays in German advertisement. This paper will argue that English has an effect on virtually all of the 114 ads examined in the Spiegel issues of 4/11 and 4/18 2005, even on the ones that do not contain any English themselves. Furthermore, it will show that the effect English has on German ads extends beyond the concepts usually related with English, like technology, modernity, or science. This is a finding similar to the one suggested by Martin in a study on English influences on French advertisements. In her study, she also stresses that the register of advertisement is a very special one due to its one-way form of communication (Martin 376). Since the hearer remains hearer and can never take over the floor, he is not required to have any active knowledge of the language used in ads. This way, language can become a tool and a symbol all by itself, while the content can become secondary – language can turn into a form without meaning. In how far this is true in the case of English in German ads will be a final concern of this paper.

II. The effects of no English on German advertisement

Of the 114 inspected ads, an overwhelming 83 contained at least some form of English. Including the 101 English or clearly English-sounding company names (like comdirect12)[1] and product names (like Smover7), a total of 348 lexical items of English could be found. This adds up to an average of more than three English lexical items per ad – a large number, considering that the amount of textual information in ads is often kept minimal[2]. Therefore, the opposite question to the one posed by the title of this paper suggests itself to research: In which contexts does an ad contain no English at all, and what can the intended effect be?

1. Recognizability

A look at the main slogans used in the ads reveals that two thirds (60 of 87) of them are still German. Many of these slogans have been associated with the respective company for a long time, creating a strong effect of recognizability, and they are maintained for the sake of an image of continuity. The following are prominent examples of such long-kept slogans that would presumably be recognized by a vast majority of consumers in Germany. BMW18 has promoted its cars with the promise of ‘Freude am Fahren’ (delight of driving) for many years, and fellow car maker Toyota62 has even managed to turn its assurance ‘nichts ist unmöglich’ (nothing is impossible) into an idiomatic expression in German. It has to be left to speculation whether adidas had this phrase’s success story in mind when it recently introduced its own new slogan ‘impossible is nothing’ – in English. The liquor brand Malteser32 managed to bring about the same effect: they turned their slogan “man gönnt sich ja sonst nichts” (after all, one doesn’t usually indulge) into an idiomatic expression that has long been uttered by many speakers whenever they indulge in anything. For decades, the fashion delivery company Otto96 has adorned its catalogues with the line ‘Otto …find ich gut’ (I like… Otto), and since the company shares its name with a common male first name, generations of Ottos have been greeted with “find ich gut.” Similarly, Volksbank104, one of the most traditional German banks, has claimed “Wir machen den Weg frei” (we clear the way) for longer than large parts of the German population can think back. Such stable slogans, where the utterances themselves have almost become an integral part of the company names, will understandably not be given up without very good reason.

2. Tradition

A second motivation for sticking to a German slogan is to bring across a notion of tradition. The lobby group for the preservation of the German coal industry8, for example, lets this notion reflect in the content of their slogan as well: “400 Jahre ab heute” (400 years as of today), alluding to the 400 years the coal industry has already been around. Another ad that is kept in German only is the one by the united vintners of the region Rhine-Hessia74: they clearly seek to give the consumer an impression of just how traditional their wine-making is, displaying an all-male family picture of several generations of wine-makers, suggesting that the art of wine-making has been passed down for a long time from grandfather to father to son. The Bavarian state bank90, that also does not include any English in its ad, tries to convince the reader of its traditionality with long assertions of how important Bavarian tradition is to the company. This ties nicely into the following category of ads that does not want to be associated with English.

3. Locality

Many companies want to create closeness to the advertisee by letting him know that they are local, that they belong to Germany or one of its regions. In 9 of the 31 ads that do not contain any English, Germany, ‘Germanness’ (different morphological realizations of ‘deutsch’) or some form of ‘Zuhause’ (home) is therefore either mentioned directly or alluded to – Deutsche Steinkohle8 (German coal), Volkswagen15 (VW), CMA19 (lobby group for German farm produce), Junkers31 heating, Vaillant40 heating, Deutsche Gesellschaft für humanes Sterben56 (German society for humane deceasing), Rheinhessenwein74, Bundesministerium für Familie86 (German family ministry), and the TV guide Hörzu112. Rheinhessenwein even includes a little map in their ad to show the reader exactly just where they are located. Maybe a little surprisingly, the global player Microsoft79 also passes on the use of English, although it represents the usually English-filled industry of high-tech and multimedia. This is quite possibly a deliberate strategy to make consumers more comfortable, to get them to identify Microsoft as a company that has found its place in Germany – the homely scene of children playing in a tree house adds to the image.


[1] The subscript numbers refer to the ad reference numbers in the appendix

[2] extremely small print like legal explanations or company names that hold the copyright to a picture used in an ad were not considered

Excerpt out of 17 pages


The Effects of English on German Advertisement
State University of New York at Stony Brook  (Linguistics)
Sociolinguistics Seminar
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Double spaced. Using two issues of the popular political German magazine "Spiegel", I show the influence English has on German advertisement - reasons for making use of English, effects of using or not using English etc. Of the 114 inspected ads, an overwhelming 83 contained at least some form of English. Including the 101 English or clearly English-sounding company names (like comdirect) and product names (like Smover), a total of 348 lexical items of English could be found...
Effects, English, German, Advertisement, Sociolinguistics, Seminar, Spiegel, Magazine, Language, Influence
Quote paper
Michael Helten (Author), 2005, The Effects of English on German Advertisement, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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