10 February, 2017

Everyday English in Germany

I've written a few times about how English words and phrases are used quite frequently in German and that I see and hear English every day. Well, today I'm going to give some concrete examples of what I mean. I've already listed some examples in my previous posts about Denglisch (part 1 here and part 2 here), but this time you get even more examples from my everyday life in photo format.

These photos were all taken on Tuesday as I walked through a pedestrian street in Hamburg. I should say up front that this wasn't even all of the examples of English I saw. There were so many that I felt like I barely had time to put my camera away before I saw the next one, and then my hands got cold so I skipped some. But regardless of that, you'll get the idea of just how prevalent English is.

"Online," "shop," "styles," "outfits," "app" and "download(en)"

Esprit has English all over their front window. In addition to the picture above and the one below there was even more, like "opening hours" instead of Öffnungszeiten and various names of articles of clothing in English. For the most part the words were all left as they are in English, except for "download," which was made into a German infinitive verb by adding "-en" to the end.


This is one of the cases that I talked about in my previous post about Denglisch that bugs me because there is already a perfectly good German word for "store." Why not say Laden? "Store" also runs into the phonetic issue I talked about in that earlier post: if you were following German phonetic pronunciation you would pronounce this word "SHTOR-uh," but instead the original English pronunciation is maintained, throwing a wrench in the normally consistent rules that make German pronunciation (relatively) easy to learn.

"First class for kids"

This store, like many, has its entire slogan (and part of its name) in English. As I've stated before, I think this is done simply to make the store or brand seem cooler or more modern, and hey, I guess that's fine. Better this than some half English, half German mishmash like we saw in the Esprit examples above.

"Love Story"

As a product name it makes sense that Love Story wouldn't be translated in German. What particularly struck me about this poster, though, is that the tagline at the top includes English, but the language it's mixed with is not German but French. "Introducing the new eau sensuelle" is a level of language mixing that's not very common in Germany.

"Are you ready?"

This ad for Germany's Next Topmodel barely has any German on it at all, except for donnerstags (the day of the week, meaning the show airs on Thursdays). All totally normal and acceptable (both by German and English standards), except for one thing that I didn't notice until I looked at the picture just now: "Topmodel" is written, strangely, as one word. This is clearly an adaptation to German spelling conventions, which I praised in my previous post, but right in the middle of a completely English ad it just seems odd.

"Don't be shy"

I guess they're encouraging women to show their backsides in tight jeans but are doing it in English so it sounds nicer?


Here the company has chosen to use the word "skincare" instead of the German word Hautpflege, which has exactly the same meaning. Sometimes direct English translations are used in German to convey a different connotation than the original German word has (which Kim pointed out in her comment on my previous post with the example of Manager vs. Verwalter) but in this case I really don't see a difference between the English and German in terms of connotation. Apparently it's still used exclusively for the coolness factor.

(By the way, "coolness factor" also sounds like a perfect Denglisch phrase that young hip Germans would sprinkle into their conversations.)

"The scent that makes the man"

(I apologize for the poor quality of this picture and the next few. The outdoor lighting and the glass windows weren't working with me very well.)

Again, a simple slogan completely in English, this time with a "WOW!" thrown in for good measure.

"Beauty of love"

This poster was hanging outside Rituals, the skincare and cosmetics company. Since it's an American company English runs clearly through all of their marketing. The sign with the business name is also in English and reads "Rituals Cosmetics" (and not Kosmetika as it would be in German).


"Upgrade" is a word that gets thrown around in German pretty frequently, probably because there isn't a great German alternative. There are a few words in German that could be translated as "upgrade" but most of them have the connotation of improving machinery and none of them would work particularly well in this marketing context.


"Basics" is another one that makes the rounds in German on a fairly regular basis, and one that even I have used on occasion (I know this doesn't fit with my usual dislike for Denglisch but don't judge me!). The closest equivalent in German would be Grundlagen, but that is used more in the context of a foundation from which to achieve something else. The German words that could be translated as "basics" don't work in the context of articles of clothing, so the English word has filled that gap.

"Padded-BH" and "Slip"

This one is a cringe-fest for me. First of all, the one on the left, Padded-BH, combines an English adjective (padded) with a German noun (BH, which stands for Büstenhalter and means bra) in a way that isn't typical in either language. The connection of the words with a hyphen follows a typical German pattern for combining nouns, but adjectives are typically not added to nouns in this way in German or English.

And moving on to the Slip: This is an English word that was loaned into German "incorrectly"/with a different meaning than the original English word has. A slip in English is a thin skirt that is worn under another skirt, but in German it has become a term for what Americans would refer to as (women's) underwear, undies or panties.

As I said at the beginning, this is just a small sampling of the English I saw on one walk through one part of one city. Since taking these pictures I've seen many, many more similar examples, and if I put them all in a post you would get bored with all the examples by the end. As this post makes clear, regardless of my feelings about the prevalence of English and Denglisch in Germany, it's here to stay, particularly in advertising, and I'll just have to get used to that.

If you live in a non-English speaking country, do you see English around you all the time? If so, feel free to share some examples in the comments!

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