English invades the language of Goethe

9th March 2001 at 00:00

DEUTSCHE Bank is "Leading to Results", Volvo is "for life", Nokia is "connecting people" and Toshiba urges customers to "choose freedom".

There is nothing unusual about such advertising slogans except that they are directed at a German-speaking population where there is growing irritation at creeping anglicisation of the language.

English linguistic imports dominate in show-business, with its "comeback performances" and "standing ovations", business and advertising with their "appointments" and "events", and in youth culture where it is simply "cool" to be "sexy".

But some people are completely at sea with Denglisch, the German equivalent of Franglais.

"It's a massive disadvantage for the monolingual German speaker, particularly in the new German states (in the east) who have not grown up with the English language," says Eckhardt Werthebach, interior minster for Berlin.

He is pushing for a law similar to a 1994 French law, to protect the language of Goethe from foreign invasion.

He advocates an institution on the lines of the Academie Francaise to suggest German alternatives to words such as airbag, bestseller, feedback, homepage, hotline, job-sharing, lifestyle, small talk and thriller, which have become firmly entrenched in everyday German.

Not everyone agrees. "Such a law did not even exist during the Nazi era, when Hitler sought to purify the language," says Gerhard Stickel, director of the Institute for German Language.

"Our language does not belong to the state or other institutions, but to the people."

Many politicians have thrown their weight behind Eckhardt Werthebach but others believe such a law would simply be ineffectual. After all, who would rather say rollkugeleingabegeraet for mouse?

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