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Thread: Germans and the English Language

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    Germans and the English Language

    This might be the wrong forum to post these questions of mine since we're all very patriotic here, and I DON'T want anyone to take this the wrong way. But I will still give it a shot.




    One huge thing I noticed during my trip to Germany a couple of weeks ago, and that I have wondered about, was that very little (almost nothing) was written in English - not even the tourist places had information in English, or guides who could actually speak English (some even refused to try to talk to us in English). Are Germans not interested in having non-German tourists, or why is that?

    It felt nice to be back at the hotel room after a long day of visiting different places, to relax and watch some TV. Yeah... TV... Just like at all the places I visited during the day, NOTHING was in English. Every funny serie on TV, every interesting documentary was ruined, since I couldn't understand a word. What is the reason for why you do that?

    Don't you sometimes feel that you might be a little too isolated only having German everywhere, all the time? I have also noticed that many Germans (especially the ones I met during my trip) don't know English at all, or have very poor English skills. Could the extreme use of German be a reason for it? Would it feel akward for you Germans to watch TV-series with only German subtitles, with the original English/American speach?

    I hope you don't take this as an insult, it's defintely not meant like that. I'm just curious, as it was quite a 'culture shock' for me as a non-German speaking tourist to visit Germany without seeing any English writings anywhere, and when I tried to ask for direction very few understood what I was saying. It just made me wonder, especially since I know how important English/American TV has been for me in the regard of learning the language. I learned very little English in school, but I learned alot from watching movies/series/documentaries/whatever in English. If (and I say if, since I haven't met too many Germans) Germans in general have poor English skills (not talking about the Germans at Skadi, you all seem very good at English, better than me as well), do you think it would've been easier for Germans to know the English language by actually hear English on TV on a daily basis, like we do in Scandinavia? But then again, do Germans even feel the need for it at all? I know I never used English until I started to write here, never really needed it before.

    I can also add that my father loves Germany in this regard, he always says; "Germany is totally right, in Germany everything should be in GERMAN, in Sweden everything should be in SWEDISH!" and yes, I agree with him to some extent - but it will still be difficult if you need to learn German before going there as a tourist. Fortunately I did have someone with me who can understand and speak German somewhat good, otherwise I don't know what would've happened.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Svea View Post
    This might be the wrong forum to post these questions of mine since we're all very patriotic here, and I DON'T want anyone to take this the wrong way. But I will still give it a shot.
    I won't take them wrong, why would I? I understand where you're coming from as I consider language education quite important and only beneficial. Well, I'd be a bad student of Linguistics if I thought otherwise. And in fact, foreign language teaching, especially that of English as a kindred language, was heavily encouraged in the Third Reich.

    One huge thing I noticed during my trip to Germany a couple of weeks ago, and that I have wondered about, was that very little (almost nothing) was written in English - not even the tourist places had information in English, or guides who could actually speak English
    This comes as very surprising to me. Even some German universities start doign their lectures all in English. It may well be though that it may have to do with the nature of the places you visited --- they don't tend to be much frequented by the extra-German as far as I'm aware.

    You see - here, we're in a heavily tourist-frequented area, so pretty much everything is labelled also in English and Italian (I make a point sometimes of walking through town pointing at something and making a literal Italian translation of venue and road names to parodise it) as well; I kind of magically assumed this was no different elsewhere.

    So I'll basically have to rely on what I think might be the case to find out what it's all about.

    (some even refused to try to talk to us in English). Are Germans not interested in having non-German tourists, or why is that?
    This is because we get everything English-language and American shoved down our throats all the time; and we get disrespectful tourists from England all out for partying and totally disregardant tourists from America. The good folk on this forum aren't like that, but the mark of their countrymen has arguably left an ill spot with many people.

    It felt nice to be back at the hotel room after a long day of visiting different places, to relax and watch some TV. Yeah... TV... Just like at all the places I visited during the day, NOTHING was in English. Every funny serie on TV, every interesting documentary was ruined, since I couldn't understand a word. What is the reason for why you do that?
    Because they know that if they broadcast it in our language, we take the propaganda in much easier. We get everything that you get, but it's all dubbed. It's the basic idea of dishing everything to them in German that they want people to understand, but dish everything to them in English that they don't want people to understand; I'm sure you've seen English-language words in the adverts that would set any native speaker of English ticking?

    Don't you sometimes feel that you might be a little too isolated only having German everywhere, all the time? I have also noticed that many Germans (especially the ones I met during my trip) don't know English at all, or have very poor English skills.
    People get English shoved down their throats from Grade 1 and nowadays even kindergarten onwards. As a result, most commonfolk don't take a particular interest in learning it properly; learning English isn't a fun activity, it's something we have to do. This is perhaps why many folks are taken off the track of mastering a foreign language.

    When foreign languages are shoved down the throat instead of being an interest kindled, folks don't tend to like learning them very well, and tend to forget within just a few years what they've actually been taught. I'm assuming most of my countrymen's command of English is comparable to my own command of French (which I had in school for three years) or even of Spanish (which I once spoke fairly fluently).

    Could the extreme use of German be a reason for it? Would it feel akward for you Germans to watch TV-series with only German subtitles, with the original English/American speach?
    Yes, that would feel very awkward to us, but I have heard this is common practice in Scandinavia; also an extreme I don't want to have, though. It's nice to come home and hear your own language, kind of thing. Since Germans have historically hated their own language (and still do --- first everything had to be Frenchified, now Anglicised), it's nice people get the feel for the language again.

    If (and I say if, since I haven't met too many Germans) Germans in general have poor English skills (not talking about the Germans at Skadi, you all seem very good at English, better than me as well)
    I think it might also be a case of Scandinavians having a very good command of English in general, for whichever reasons. The other week I stumbled by coincidence across the page of Lund University and was surprised to learn that even such an old institution offered many of their courses in English.

    But then again, do Germans even feel the need for it at all? I know I never used English until I started to write here, never really needed it before.
    I suppose, in most cases, not really. That is a very fair point. I had much of a head-start so I couldn't relate to others' situations, but I have noticed some of my comrades have ridiculously ill commands of English; sometimes much to my amusement when they do try their hand.

    I can also add that my father loves Germany in this regard, he always says; "Germany is totally right, in Germany everything should be in GERMAN, in Sweden everything should be in SWEDISH!" and yes, I agree with him to some extent - but it will still be difficult if you need to learn German before going there as a tourist.
    That of course does make it difficult. When I ended up accompanying the family for a couple of days to Northern Italy (Lombardy, formerly Celto-Germanic region) for relaxing and sightseeing I didn't have the time to revamp my basic knowledge of Italian, so it was a mixture of being glad that the area got so many German-speaking tourists and knowing that in Italy you can always make yourself understood by talking with hands and feet (the north is no different! )

    On the other hand, I do think that before visiting a country, especially if planned long ahead, one should familarise themselves at least with the most important floskels. Any people will like it if tourists know a couple of words, and it helps to get in touch with the locals, very important in Germanic countries. Then again, I learn languages fairly easily, so that helps.

    Fortunately I did have someone with me who can understand and speak German somewhat good, otherwise I don't know what would've happened.
    I think a thread's also been opened where learners of German can ask questions about the language, so --- feel free and ask a question. I for one will address any question asked by any member of the word wishing to know more about my language in as much detail, I hope many others follow suit.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

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    Senior Member Heinrich Harrer's Avatar
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    Actually I think we already have far too many anglicisms in the german language, because everybody these days thinks it's so modern and international and wanting to preserve your own language is as taboo as opposing diversity in an ethnic sense.

    And I can't really believe that you haven't seen any signs in english. In the public transportation in Berlin many signs are in German/English/French.

    As for germans refusing to talk to you in English, I also feel uncomfortable when tourists approach me to ask something in English, because I know that my spoken english is horrible as I never get to practice it, and it can feel a little embarrassing (online I use it quite often now, but this written activity doesn't help with the pronunciation).

    Of course tour guides should probably be able to speak it, at least if their target audience consists of international tourists and not just german tourists from other parts of the country.

    Quote Originally Posted by Svea View Post
    One huge thing I noticed during my trip to Germany a couple of weeks ago, and that I have wondered about, was that very little (almost nothing) was written in English - not even the tourist places had information in English, or guides who could actually speak English (some even refused to try to talk to us in English). Are Germans not interested in having non-German tourists, or why is that?
    I would say that we don't exist for the pleasure of international tourism as a sort of German disneyland, so why should we put so much emphasis on foreign languages instead of living our own culture and practicing our own language?

    Of course with a capitalistic mindset one might argue that more tourists equals more money, so we should do everything to attract even more and to make it as easy as possible for them. But I don't think our culture should revolve around that sort of thinking, and if someone from another nation wants to experience Germany, it's his duty to accomodate himself and to see how he gets along in the country.

    It felt nice to be back at the hotel room after a long day of visiting different places, to relax and watch some TV. Yeah... TV... Just like at all the places I visited during the day, NOTHING was in English. Every funny serie on TV, every interesting documentary was ruined, since I couldn't understand a word. What is the reason for why you do that?
    So we should broadcast our TV in a foreign language just so that tourists can understand their shows? Did you visit Germany to watch the same shows you watch at home the whole time anyway? Or do you expect even locally produced shows to be in english?

    Personally I like to watch movies in their original language myself as the quality of dubs is often not too good and alters the original material, but I think it's good that at least our language is used on the television channels. It's already bad enough that the programs are mostly dominated by foreign shows and movies, because our own movie/entertainment 'industry' these days isn't worth much. And on the radio most of the music is american pop music, and the few german musicians then often also use the english language in their songs.

    It really feels like cultural occupation. Of course it's our fault for not producing anything which is able to compete with these mostly american shows/movies. Everyone is used to the Hollywood exports, but imagine having 90% french or spanish shows and movies on American television and almost nothing produced in their own nation. I don't think this is a very natural state, as the media has quite a big influence on young people (well actually probably on people of all ages).

    I hope you don't take this as an insult, it's defintely not meant like that. I'm just curious, as it was quite a 'culture shock' for me as a non-German speaking tourist to visit Germany without seeing any English writings anywhere, and when I tried to ask for direction very few understood what I was saying.
    How good is your english pronunciation? If they don't understand you, it could also be your fault for having a funny pronunciation yourself. I think if two people from different non-english speaking countries try to communicate with each other, it gets even more difficult because both the speaker and the listener make mistakes.

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    I have also noticed this phenomenon, which doesn't bother me at all but my wife complained about it non-stop during a recent visit to Cologne. Then again, she'd been moaning about all the French tourist attractions being like English places earlier in the trip ("what's the point of coming to France if everything's in English" and so on..) so I do sometimes wonder what exactly she wants

    It is surprising though, if only for commercial reasons, that more effort isn't made by Germans to speak English in popular tourist areas, given that English would easily be the most common language spoken. It would appear they've taken the cultural option here rather than the business one which, I'd be tempted to to say, makes a refreshing change these days and so good for them!!!

    Still, there's a long way to go yet before they get rid of all those McDonalds

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    Yea, figured it would be a sensitive topic to some. Thank you Sigurd for good answers to my honest questions, it's very interesting to visit another Germanic country, and of course there's a lot of differences even though we're all Germanics. That's why I asked so much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heinrich Harrer View Post
    Actually I think we already have far too many anglicisms in the german language, because everybody these days thinks it's so modern and international and wanting to preserve your own language is as taboo as opposing diversity in an ethnic sense.
    I'm not talking about changing the German language.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heinrich Harrer View Post
    And I can't really believe that you haven't seen any signs in english. In the public transportation in Berlin many signs are in German/English/French.
    I didn't visit Berlin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heinrich Harrer View Post
    As for germans refusing to talk to you in English, I also feel uncomfortable when tourists approach me to ask something in English, because I know that my spoken english is horrible as I never get to practice it, and it can feel a little embarrassing (online I use it quite often now, but this written activity doesn't help with the pronunciation).
    It was a TOURIST GUIDE who refused to even TRY to talk us in English. If you're going to work with tourism, you should also be able to communicate with the tourists in at least English (and of course the native language), imo. Regular people is another matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heinrich Harrer View Post
    I would say that we don't exist for the pleasure of international tourism as a sort of German disneyland, so why should we put so much emphasis on foreign languages instead of living our own culture and practicing our own language?
    We? As in the German people? I agree. Places which are nowadays formed to attract tourists should have some sort of information in English though, that is still my opinion about it. If you're of another opinion, fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heinrich Harrer View Post
    Of course with a capitalistic mindset one might argue that more tourists equals more money, so we should do everything to attract even more and to make it as easy as possible for them. But I don't think our culture should revolve around that sort of thinking, and if someone from another nation wants to experience Germany, it's his duty to accomodate himself and to see how he gets along in the country.
    I wasn't talking about changing your language or people, I was talking about simple information in English beside the German. A simple translation, at tourist attractions. I understand from what you're writing that you're not that keen on having non-Germans as tourists in your country (obviously not even other Germanics), and that's fine, but I don't agree with you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heinrich Harrer View Post
    So we should broadcast our TV in a foreign language just so that tourists can understand their shows? Did you visit Germany to watch the same shows you watch at home the whole time anyway? Or do you expect even locally produced shows to be in english?
    When did I say that? I noticed it since it was quite a shock for me because I never knew about it before. I was simply wondering why you do it, not saying that you shouldn't do it or that it's bad. It was just a simple question since I'm very curious about it, it's different from what I'm used to. Obviously you will feel the same way if you visit Scandinaiva and see that we don't put in Swedish voices instead of the original ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heinrich Harrer View Post
    How good is your english pronunciation? If they don't understand you, it could also be your fault for having a funny pronunciation yourself. I think if two people from different non-english speaking countries try to communicate with each other, it gets even more difficult because both the speaker and the listener make mistakes.
    I have a really good pronounciation if I may say it myself, and that is because I have learned alot from watching movies and series in English (it helps alot to actually HEAR English/American people talk), and I speak English a lot on a daily basis. The people I talked to didn't know English very well, they only understood one single word here and there. That is also a bit different for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    This is because we get everything English-language and American shoved down our throats all the time; and we get disrespectful tourists from England all out for partying and totally disregardant tourists from America. The good folk on this forum aren't like that, but the mark of their countrymen has arguably left an ill spot with many people.
    That could explain a lot as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    Yes, that would feel very awkward to us, but I have heard this is common practice in Scandinavia; also an extreme I don't want to have, though. It's nice to come home and hear your own language, kind of thing. Since Germans have historically hated their own language (and still do --- first everything had to be Frenchified, now Anglicised), it's nice people get the feel for the language again.
    Yes, but I don't really see that "extreme" you're talking about. We have so many Swedish shows on TV that I sometimes think it's very well enough. So if you want to come home and hear your own language, that's definitely not a problem here. The Swedish shows are also the shows that are most popular by the Swedish population, especially among the older generation, perhaps not too big of a surprise.

    Sad to hear that the Germans hated their language, as a tourist in Germany today you don't get that feeling at all though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinrich Harrer View Post
    ...if someone from another nation wants to experience Germany, it's his duty to accomodate himself and to see how he gets along in the country.
    Well said! I am going on a trip to Germany in a few months and seriously intend to get along on my poor Geman skills, without speaking English at all. I'm sure the experience will be one to laugh about afterwards

    It is the first time I ever read about "too little English in Germany", usually I encounter the exactly opposite opinion, "too much English". Personally, I think, German is one of the few languages really worth preserving in their uniqueness. Much as I love my native English, I wouldn't like to see German swamped by it. Perhaps Germans should follow the example of the French and enact laws against excessive use of Anglicisms but then... how useful can a law be, when respect for the native language and desire to protect it are not a part of the nation's mentality?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Godwinson View Post
    I have also noticed this phenomenon, which doesn't bother me at all but my wife complained about it non-stop during a recent visit to Cologne. Then again, she'd been moaning about all the French tourist attractions being like English places earlier in the trip ("what's the point of coming to France if everything's in English" and so on..) so I do sometimes wonder what exactly she wants
    But you also know German, don't you? It's a bit easier if you do, you know.
    But yes, you're obviously going to Germany to meet Germans and their culture. But, it doesn't take away the experience if there's an English translation next to the German information at the tourist attractions you're visiting. It's easier as a tourist to enjoy what you're looking at if you KNOW what you're looking at, such as a building's history, what it was used for and so on. There's information in German, because they want the tourists to know - so why not also in English then?

    In fact, me and my bf visited some small and not very popular tourist attractions here in Sweden about the same time and the information in all those places were translated into both English and German. Obviously those are the biggest "tourist languages" we get here, except for Swedish.
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    I think it's fine. We haven't even had the great chasm occur yet, we aren't at tier 3 even, and we still haven't as a species had any racial wars yet on global levels. We're still very un-progressed planetary-species wise. Once our people are united at tier 4 or 5 then language will no longer be an issue as there will exist small implants which will enable immediate mental access to all languages.

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    Senior Member Heinrich Harrer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Svea View Post
    It was a TOURIST GUIDE who refused to even TRY to talk us in English. If you're going to work with tourism, you should also be able to communicate with the tourists in at least English (and of course the native language), imo. Regular people is another matter.
    As I said, in the case of tour guides I fully agree with you. But I do think that we also have english speaking tour guides. Maybe you were unlucky and the specific tour was intended for german tourists from other regions?

    I understand from what you're writing that you're not that keen on having non-Germans as tourists in your country (obviously not even other Germanics), and that's fine, but I don't agree with you.
    Actually if other germanics take an interest in Germany and want to visit our country I feel flattered. I just don't think our culture should revolve around accomodating tourists and plastering our cities with english signs and broadcasting our television in a foreign language. I agree with you about tour guides and signs at select locations of interest to tourists, but that's about it.

    On the other hand, if we think about tourism in general, an increase in tourism will probably also increase internationalism. For some tourists it might be the first step to later immigration - and not all tourists are from fellow germanic countries. So should we really invest more resources to advance this development just to gain some pennies? Food for thought.

    Obviously you will feel the same way if you visit Scandinaiva and see that we don't put in Swedish voices instead of the original ones.
    I've already heard that it's rather uncommon in smaller (population-wise) countries like Hungary, Finland or Sweden. But other larger countries like France, Italy and Russia probably use dubbing too, just like asian movies for example are probably dubbed in english-speaking countries (I don't know though, so maybe my speculations are wrong).

    I have a really good pronounciation if I may say it myself, and that is because I have learned alot from watching movies and series in English (it helps alot to actually HEAR English/American people talk), and I speak English a lot on a daily basis. The people I talked to didn't know English very well, they only understood one single word here and there. That is also a bit different for me.
    You may have a good pronunciation, but do you really sound like a native english speaker? Foreign accents can make it more difficult to understand something - especially so if the listener is not a native speaker himself, it just doubles the effort required to communicate. For people not used to communicating in english it's already difficult to understand normal english, then another foreign accent might throw them off completely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amerikanerin View Post
    Well said! I am going on a trip to Germany in a few months and seriously intend to get along on my poor Geman skills, without speaking English at all. I'm sure the experience will be one to laugh about afterwards

    It is the first time I ever read about "too little English in Germany", usually I encounter the exactly opposite opinion, "too much English". Personally, I think, German is one of the few languages really worth preserving in their uniqueness. Much as I love my native English, I wouldn't like to see German swamped by it. Perhaps Germans should follow the example of the French and enact laws against excessive use of Anglicisms but then... how useful can be a law, when respect for the native language and desire to protect it are not a part of the nation's mentality?
    That's the proper attitude.

    Sigurd has already mentioned the german language thread. If you have questions, I would be glad to help you too.

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    Senior Member Wulfram's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    This is because we get everything English-language and American shoved down our throats all the time; and we get disrespectful tourists from England all out for partying and totally disregardant tourists from America. The good folk on this forum aren't like that, but the mark of their countrymen has arguably left an ill spot with many people.
    Everything "American" in your country is just as despised by myself here in the states. Fast food, crappy off-the-rack clothing not even made in America, quantity replacing quality, etc. These things are not what defined America at one time. Up until WWII we were still a country with a very proud culture and producing quality using traditional techniques brought over from Europe.

    I agree with you completely about the rudeness of American tourists. Not only have I witnessed it on many occasions but was myself guilty of this when I visited Germany for the first time as a teenager. The Germans we met in the big cities seemed quite different from those we met "off the beaten path". My attitude towards them was along the lines of: "I bet your PRETTY IMPRESSED that I'm an American. We are having such fun visiting your little country. My grandparents spoke German fluently. Isn't that amazing!" Their reactions were what I misinterpreted to be as shyness, when in fact they were being as polite as possible without actually asking me to remove myself from their presence. They had seen and heard it all before. I eventually learned to be more respectful and made an effort to communicate in very limited German as best as I could by the time of my last visit, which was many years ago. It was satisfying to see how appreciative many Germans were when I did this.

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