Anglicisms ‘leaken’ into German language

Germans are already “chillen” in their downtime, “surfen” the internet and, when they leave a nightclub, they may go on to “ein afterparty”.

But the latest English word to creep into the Deutsche sprache is the verb “leaken”, which has just been voted Anglicism of the Year in Germany.

Proving the international influence of WikiLeaks, Germans have quickly shunned their old way of describing information being secretly passed on to others and adapted the English verb “to leak”.

So they talk of the geleakte dokumente released by the controversial site as an alternative to the somewhat unwieldy durchgesickerte unterlagen of yore.
The jury awarding the inaugural prize for Anglicism of the Year was chaired by Anatol Stefanowitsch, a professor in linguistics at Hamburg University.
He said: “The word has really established itself in the German language in the past year and has enriched our vocabulary.”

Another WikiLeaks-inspired word made third place, namely “whistleblowers”, a category of people for whom there was previously no precise German term.

Other contenders for the prize were, perhaps inevitably, technology-related. Coming in second place to “leaken” was entfreunden, a literal translation of the brutal term “to unfriend”, which has become common parlance on social networking sites. Further short-listed words included “shitstorm” and “scripted reality”.

Not all Germans are happy about English words and phrases entering their language. The Society for the German Language (die Gesellschaft fur Deutsche Sprache), a pressure group founded in 1947 to protect German from the invasion of foreign words, recently declared “WikiLeaks” as one of its “unwords” of the year.

The German Language Association (Verein Deutsche Sprache), another protectionist group, says its aim is to “confront” the anglicisation of the German language and “remind the people of Germany of the value and beauty of their native language”.

Holger Klatte, a spokesperson for the VDS, said: “The problem is not so much that English is an influence on the German language, but that it is such a powerful, overwhelming influence. There seems to be this attitude that English is somehow ‘better’ than German, that German somehow sounds old-fashioned, particularly to a certain group of people.”

Sometimes English words seem to get lost in translation in Germany. A mobile phone is known as ein Handy, while a video projector is ein Beamer. But Stefanowitsch insisted German was not in mortal danger, saying: “There is a lot of grumbling about English, but it is an important source of linguistic information.

The borrowing of words is a natural process which takes place in every language.” — Guardian News & Media 2011

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