Ein kurzes Paper zu Denglisch

Posted on Wednesday, Aug 12, 2015

“Denglisch,” the German term for words in German that have been adopted more or less wholesale from the English language has become my archenemy during my time in Berlin. You might think that such words would be a blessing, seeing as I don’t really have to “learn” them, since, you know, they are already English. But as it turns out, they are less of a blessing and much more of a curse. Why, you might ask? It’s a simple matter of pronunciation.
German has a very distinctive accent, cadence, and rhythm, as do most languages. But still, some languages are more similar to American English than others. For example, English words seem to fit in fine with Dutch, because they sound fairly similar in the first place. On the other hand, German and English just don’t mesh well. At all. It’s hard to explain exactly why; you would just have to hear it. Nevertheless, I’ll try to enlighten you, dear traveller, on what to expect when and if you too come to Germany.

These are the words that frustrate me the most, and I’ll do my best to explain why these seemingly soft and cuddly friendly words are actually wolves in sheeps’ clothing.
  • Ad.jpgrecyceln: this means “to recycle,” and most Germans (try to) pronounce it like we do in English. But the problem is that most Germans just can’t replicate the English “r” sound. They overemphasize it so much that it ends up sounding like they’re using their tongue to wrap a sushi roll in sticky rice all while talking about which of the many bins your trash goes in.
  • alright: you already know what to expect from the “r” in this word, but the “al” is very interesting too. Imagine an opera singer, let’s say Pavarotti, and he’s singing something real deep and heavy, a big “oooooh” sound. Maybe his beloved bride has just been killed by wolves, or has been turned into a worm, and he’s mourning her untimely loss. That’s what this word sounds like: “Ooooooohlrrrrrite.”
  • cool: it must be said, the Germans pronounce this one just fine. There’s no sound in this word that isn’t also present in German. However, Germans are known for their seemingly arbitrary rules, and for this word, they have inexplicable decided to make it follow German adjective declension patterns (even though most foreign words don’t). For example: Die Oper war cool (the opera was cool), but Das war eine coole Oper (That was a cool opera), and Diese Oper war am coolsten (this opera was the coolest).
  • Pillows.jpgswear words: I am a firm believer in the fact that German does not have native swear words in the same way that English does. Some will disagree, but as long as Germans feel comfortable saying Schei├če around their grandmothers, I’m going to hold to this belief. Instead, German youth have taken to using English swear words, but they invariable seem to use them incorrectly. I won’t print the words here, but suffice it to say that I have never heard the word for which Ralphie got soap in his mouth applied to such mundane, every day annoyances as “I still need to brush my teeth.” – “Oh, ****!” 
So in conclusion, if you’re ever in Germany, be prepared to find your beloved English used in some unusual ways. 

Hunter Hampton
Berlin, Germany - Summer 2015

Tags: Creative, German, Language, PPIP