11

Hello again and a very happy New Year to everyone.

 

This month I am not going to look at recent errors in particular, but at the subject of Denglish.

 

All languages change, at varying speeds and to a greater or lesser degree, but one thing that happens continuously is the adoption of non-native words, these days in particular English ones, into a different language. While some of these words are transferred directly and hold the same meaning in the new language – German, of course, here – some take on a meaning in the non-English language which is perhaps close to the original or, in some cases, vastly different. Thus, a young lad to whom I once gave after-school coaching, informed me:

 

“I’m becoming a new handy for Christmas”

 

in this case managing to combine a false friend (bekommen, which of course really means to get) with the Denglish Handy, the meaning of which in German is very different from that in English.

 

There are many examples of Denglish, and here I am going to concentrate on some of the most common you may come across. I shall start with words that are direct translations – often words which have a German counterpart but the English one is commonly used, but some which have come into being through, for example, modern technology, where a word may now be universally used. Here is a list:

English

 

Denglish

German alternative

download (noun)

to download (verb)

der Download

downloaden

das Herunterladen

herunterladen

show  

die Show

die Sendung/die Vorstellung

lifestyle  

der Lifestyle

der Lebensstil/die Lebensweise

sorry  

sorry

Entschuldigung/wie bitte

computer  

der Computer

der Rechner

internet 

das Internet

 

manager 

der Manager

der Geschäftsführer/der Leiter

marketing 

das Marketing

der Vertrieb

workflow 

der Workflow

der Arbeitsablauf

meeting 

das Meeting

das Treffen/die Sitzung

online 

online

 

to brainstorm

brainstormen

 

 

In a few places I have not given a German equivalent because the use of Denglish in those cases is pretty much universal. In some cases there are even more German equivalents, but since I am concentrating on translations into English, it is not really important to seek out more. The point is that if you do come across any of the words in German you can confidently “translate” them as exactly the same into English. You may notice that many of these instances are computer and/or business-related, which says much about the universality of the business and technological world today.

 

Less straightforward are those English words which have moved into the German language and changed their meaning either partly or completely. My example above of Handy is, of course, a well-known one. No native speaker of English with no knowledge of German could possibly guess that an adjective which means convenient could be used as a noun meaning a mobile, or cell, phone. Which is entirely the point of being aware of which Denglish words cannot be transferred into English in your translation – which is, of course, meant to be read by someone with no knowledge of German.

 

I mentioned recently a couple of examples that have come about only recently. The coronavirus is referred to as that, or as Covid-19 or simply Covid in English, while German people frequently talk about Corona. Be aware that this does need translating: do not use corona in English. Similarly, while Germans say that they are working im Homeoffice, or perhaps heute ist Homeoffice, this is used slightly differently in English. The Home Office in the UK is a government department, and even if someone says they have an office at home, or even a home office, English speakers actually talk about working from home or working at home and not simply doing home office, which is the German phrasing: the home office (not capitalised) is the place not the action.

 

There are some words and phrases which sound as if they can be copied directly into English but are better rephrased, for example Know-How, which is frequently better translated as expertise; or Wellness. This latter is being used more frequently in English as it is in German, that is relating to a spa or similar, but its actual meaning is the state of being in good health, so be careful to use it correctly. The list below, however, shows words that have a different meaning in the two languages.

Denglish

 

Actual meaning in English

Correct translation

der Oldtimer

 a very experienced person (GB)/an old person (US)

classic or vintage car

der Bodybag

bag in which a corpse is carried away

shoulder bag/messenger bag/other bag (according to context; use pictures if available)

der Beamer

BMW (esp. GB)/other meanings, some technical

projector

der Smoking

referring to cigarettes or fire

dinner jacket (GB)/ tux or tuxedo (US)

das Shooting/Fotoshooting

(without “Foto”) relates to firearms

photo shoot

das Peeling

what happens to the skin after sunburn

body or facial scrub

das Outing (as noun)

a trip taken for pleasure

coming out of the closet (as gay)

checken

 

to understand

der Sprayer

device for spraying liquid

graffiti artist

trampen

 

to hitchhike

der Dressman

 

male model

der Showmaster

 

presenter/gameshow host

mobbing

crowding in an unruly fashion

bullying

das Basecap

 

baseball cap

das Public Viewing

viewing a body (US)/viewing at an art gallery etc.

watching a football (GB)/soccer match (US) live

der Moderator

arbitrator or mediator

presenter/talk show host

 

This list is, of course, far from exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of some commonly used Denglish words which you need to be aware of. Where I have not given an actual meaning it is because there is not one (particularly in the case of verbs), or not one that can be easily summarised. In some case it may not be easy to distinguish the correct usage. For instance das Outing in German could be mistaken for the English pleasure trip, while you might talk about outing someone as gay when you are using the word as a verb. Vigilance is the key.

 

No doubt, whatever those who want to keep English words out of the German language think about it, the Denglish vocabulary will continue to expand. And for translators this means staying up to date and knowing when these words mean the same in both languages and when they do not. So, if you see a word that looks like an English word when you are translating, please check if you are not sure.

 

I hope this is helpful, and I do hope you will ask questions if you have any.

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