The Influence of English on German and Italian

We could pick almost any modern language to illustrate what could be called the linguistic “imperialism” of English: Japanese, Russian, Portuguese or Spanish, to name but a few.

In this case, let us consider two — German and Italian.

Unlike the French, who resist — though often not successfully — the pervasive influence of English, the Germans seem to fear that opposition might remind people of the Third Reich and the restrictions Hitler placed on foreign words.

As a result, English expressions appear with ever greater frequency in German conversations and writing. German advertisements even appear entirely in English.

Here is a partial list of common English words one hears in German: cool, management, sorry, T-shirt, shorts, warm-up, jogging, harddisc, online, flat-screen and meeting. Sometimes it is a matter of using German words in an English-manner.

Das macht sinn — that makes sense — really does not make sense unless one understands it imitates an English construction.

As one would expect, some Germans have pushed back against English. The Association of the German Language is a group dedicated to preserving the purity of German speech.

Like so many other languages, German simply has no words of its own to express these ideas.

The impact of English on Italian is similar to what we find in other countries, especially among the youth and in the technological fields.

Happy hour, topless, flirt, show, free drink and the seemingly universal cool pop up in Italian, along with such terms as mouse, monitor and browser. Bluejeans, simply jeans, seems to be universal.

In Italian and many other languages, the borrowing might not be a direct importation but rather what is called a calque in linguistic circles. A calque is a word or expression whose elements replace the foreign term but is adjusted to express the imported concept.

Thus rete in Italian, meaning a net, might be used to translate Web in computer language. Similarly, in Italian navigare (navigate) might translate “surfing” in the technological sense.

Taken from The Daily News: 25.09.11