Aspects and implications regarding the use of English in Germany with respect to the German culture and advertising of mobile phone companies
The mobile telecommunications sector is booming in many parts of the world but in industrialised countries such as Germany the market is saturated and mobile phone companies have to be inventive to gain and keep customers. (Wikipedia)
In order to maintain their sales companies have to be creative and not only offer good quality. One important aspect of product marketing seems to be focussed on language and, in this case, English language in particular. The use of English in German advertising and marketing seems to have become an important means to catch the attention of the potential customer. In certain sectors of the advertising industry the message the producer wants to get across seems only possible to be articulated in English. This has almost become a tradition and originates in the art of advertising in American marketing.
In this essay I intend to set out some of the historic relations which lead to the status English language has acquired in the German language. In addition, I intend to investigate the English language and its importance as a world language. So as to demonstrate this I shall illustrate the use of English on websites of mobile phone companies operating in Germany. I shall distinguish and differentiate some of the different reasons and purposes which tend to involve the use of the English language. What are the respective attitudes towards English by both the customer and the advertiser? I would like to stress that this essay does not aim to explain how marketing and advertising work in general. The purpose of this essay is to consider one certain aspect of advertising namely the use of the English by Germans and the English language itself. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “Denglish”.
History of the German language
The development of the German language has been subjected to many different foreign linguistic influences. Initially, during Roman occupation and then under the influence of the Church Latin began to be integrated into the German language. By the Middle Ages French started to filter in. The 15th Century saw German adopting even more Latin. However, in the 16th Century during the Thirty Years’ War French was again an influent at source. During industrialisation inventions revealed a lack of terms and expressions. New terms were coined from Greek and again Latin but by the second half of the 20th century the primary linguistic influence in Germany had become Anglo-American. To sum it up “wars, ideologies, cultural changes, scientific and technical developments” have been the main reasons for the various influences on German (Hilgendorf 1996: 3). Furthermore, Hilgendorf states that the contact between English and German is unprecedented in terms of the amount of influence English has had on German in such a short time. In addition, Viereck (1996: 17) observes that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the linguistic influence of French on German on the whole was greater than the English language has been so far.
The process of germanising foreign words
In the course of history many foreign words were adapted by German in terms of spelling and inflection so that sometimes the origin of the word has become difficult to trace. This has been the case in various different donor languages for example Italian “alarme” to “Alarm” or English strike to “Streik” and also “cake” to “Keks”.
Another way of implementing foreign words is to translate directly the loan expression to German and adapt them to German orthography for example skyscraper to “Wolkenkratzer”. These loan translations were somewhat apparent in politics since the post-war period e.g. “summit conference” to “Gipfelkonferenz”. Lately the application of loan translations has decreased and the adoption of the original word has become increasingly common practice. For example, airbag changes to Airbag where the only change is the adaptation to German capitalisation of nouns.
English in the EU
English is the major language of business in Europe according to Crystal: “[…] organizations which work only in English are surprisingly common, especially in science.” “The overriding impression is that, wherever in the world an organization is based, English is the chief auxiliary language.” English is a medium of communication in growth areas such as sport, science and politics. International organisations use English as one of their working languages in 85 percent of instances noted (Crystal 2003: 87-99).
Complementary to the situation in Germany Dollerup (1996: 26) comes up with another aspect. “The present hegemony of English in Europe is primarily due to the entertainment industry, and only secondarily to war, technological lead, science and political domination. It also varies from profession to profession, country to country, and district to district.” He suggests that “…the establishment of a specific youth culture and the propagation of popular music” is the real turning point for the pervasive and permeant English influence […]” (Dollerup 1996: 27).
- Quote paper
- Sonja Sickert (Author), 2006, Aspects and implications regarding the use of English in Germany with respect to the German culture and advertising of mobile phone companies, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/62727