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Sprechen Sie Deutsch?!

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on December 17, 2008 5 Comments

An article in the Telegraph, UK, covers what it calls a “growing backlash” in Germany against the popular trend of appropriating English words into German discourse, or what is called “Denglisch.” An increasingly globalized world, the spread of English-based technology, and a high rate of immigration into the country (there are some 10 million foreigners in Germany presently) have all contributed to a situation that is alarming to some Germans: sixty out of every hundred new word used in Germany are now English words, up from 1980, when only one word in 100 was English. Walter Kraemer, a member of the Verein Deutsche Sprache e.V. (the German Language Association, similar to the French Académie française) is arguing that this is detrimental for German science and industry. The Telegraph quotes him as saying:

There is no way around English…It’s the international language. But before you communicate, you have to be innovative, imaginative, creative, and you can’t do that properly in a language that’s not your own. People think better in their own language. German science is suffering because of this.”

This outcry comes on the heels of a recent vote to add to the German Constitution (the Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland), as a result of the culmination of sustained efforts by German conservatives, to incorporate the following text to Article 22: “The language of the Federal Republic of Germany is German.” This proposal has been criticized as being aimed against the growing Turkish, Arab and African immigrant communities.

Language has also been a central issue in immigration discussions in the US. I won’t go in to it here, but my one comment is that English has done just fine here “despite” the waves of immigration from non-English speaking worlds. To get a really cool perspective on this, check out the video below which maps out immigration to the US from 1820 to 2007:


Immigration to the US, 1820-2007 v2 from Ian Stevenson on Vimeo.

Check out a related old post called “Sprich Deutsch!” here.

This post has been cross-posted at the Daily Kos. Click here to check out the wonderful thread of comments!

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5 Responses to “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?!”

  1. Youki on: 18 December 2008 at 7:58 am

    it’s interesting how Daily Kos comment titles are much more closely integrated into the text of the comment itself, often being the first few words of a sentence, or even the entire comment itself. Looks more like a threaded discussion format but
    without the deeper commitment that format implies.

    Seems more conducive to tangential discussions, since no matter how far off-topic you go, it’s visually clear how the thread is structured. If someone isn’t interested in the topic of a thread, they can easily scroll down to the next thread. So it places less responsibility on the commenter to “say something important,” which may shape how the community perceives itself and its role in keeping a discussion lively.

    Aside from the obvious differences in readership and exposure, I’m curious in what ways your two posts manifest themselves being on FIT and Daily Kos. Why does it seem so much easier to post “your 2 cents’ worth” on Daily Kos and not on FIT.

    My guess is that Daily Kos has such an established history of discussion that commenting there is easier. While the visual elements of the blog may be more conducive to contributing comments (regardless of how relevant they are to the original post), there’s comfort in knowing that your comment is one of dozens (or hundreds) and there’s so much going on at Daily Kos that you blend in with the crowd much more.

    I have this image in my head. Commenting on Daily Kos is like being in a crowded reception after someone has given a talk. You look around and there are groups of people talking, and they may be commenting on the talk they just saw, and undoubtedly there will be a group of people talking with the presenter, but there are always pockets of people talking about something different, but related.

    Comments on FIT, however, feel like the question session right after someone has given a talk. There’s pressure to ask an interesting question, one that has content to it, one that contributes to the discussion. Sometimes, there are no questions from the audience, and it’s up to the coordinator to ask the first question — if anything, just to give feedback to the presenter, that their talk had an impact and will somehow be useful to people. There’s a deep institutional influence on the discourse of “question session right after a talk” — you’re not just talking as yourself, you’re positioning yourself, you’re engaged in what Goffman called “footing” – the ways in which we present ourselves and align ourselves to a frame; our “projected self” is at stake to a much greater degree in the moments where you’re expected to ask a question that demonstrates your understanding of the presentation, and even not understanding something is a form of gaze, that form of totalizing classification Benedict Anderson and Foucault write about – even though it is unknown, it is still mapped, empty spaces that are designated to be discovered sometime in the future.

    I wonder if I could have written this comment on Daily Kos. I don’t think so; I’d be speaking to a much broader audience and assuming that they’ve read the stuff I have would be pretty rude of me. Then again there are Firefly references on Usree’s DK comments and that’s somewhat obscure as well.

    And there’s the obvious problem of this comment being way too long and I’d be lucky if even one person (aside from Dave and Usree!) had the energy to read it all 🙂

  2. daveski on: 18 December 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Interesting meta-comment on the comments. Putting the original post together with Youki’s comment would give us {drum roll}: “Comment language policy”. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=918

    But the statement that German science is suffering because of the deluge of English terms is fascinating. I think that the percentage of scientific publications in German, by German researchers, has gone way down in recent years. What, I wonder, do everyday Germans think about the effects of English in German society?

  3. Youki on: 18 December 2008 at 11:39 pm

    That’s an interesting thread over at Language Log. They too seem to be more in the “question session after an academic presentation” discourse; highly institutionalized, where every comment is expected to “advance the discussion in a significant way” as one of the commentors posted.

    Of course, LL gets 8000 visits a day and their comments tend to be fairly long/dense, so a form of text regulation does seem necessary. Daily Kos gets 750,000 visits per day so overt regulation is probably not even remotely possible, so it makes sense that they have more self-regulatory systems in place.

    Comparative Gricean analysis between LL and DK comments, anyone?

  4. Usree Bhattacharya on: 19 December 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Re: Y’s question, “Why does it seem so much easier to post “your 2 cents’ worth” on Daily Kos and not on FIT?” Hmmm I am not entirely sure it’s easier to for me to post on the Kos at all. I usually panic quite a bit before posting there: I am a newbie, trying to make sure I follow the norms of the community there. I usually read the Daily Kos FAQ every time before posting there, and Google questions such as “what’s a bannable offense for diary writers?”

    Though the pressures of writing in FIT are many, esp. given its “academicky” nature, the pressures of posting on a site such as the Daily Kos are in some ways even more daunting, because the entire community is an “unknown.”

    The kind of post I am writing, also, obviously influences how I feel about posting on either site…if it’s political, I anticipate a great response on the Daily Kos; if its more “academicky,” I am worried about being laughed off the site!

  5. Youki on: 30 March 2009 at 3:06 am

    interesting post on Language Log:

    English and Science in China and Japan

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