Tag Archives: English language

English – Time to add a little more German?

Say it quick(ly) and write fast may be the way we communicate now, but if you think that efficiency is the driver of language development, as attested by the Oxford English Dictionary, you would be wrong. Their so-called development of the language, 650 words added in March 2019, is just a hobby for academics and far removed from the reality of the down and dirty evolution which it taking place all around us.

If you really want to witness a language developing look no further than German. Not the grammar of course, where the introduction of three genders randomly allocated to nouns was reputedly created by God in order to slow them down and stop them taking over the world, but in the creation of new words based solely on efficiency or, to put it simply, why use a long word when a short one will do?

Now anybody familiar with German will now be screaming denial, after all, German is the home of such amazingly long words as:Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft(80 characters) which for those unfamiliar with the language means:

Association for Subordinate Officials of the Head Office Management of the Danube Steamboat Electrical Services (100 characters).

So the German is actually shorter – and even shorter when considering the way we say words since they are not pronounced letter by letter but syllable by syllable. Here the German is a clear winner, 24 syllables in German, 34 in English.

In fact, English can be considered the home of brevity with translations from German usually being shorter, though there are outstanding contradictions. “Zeitgeist” with two syllables is infinitely more efficient than the English “spirit of the times” with five and has earned a rightful place in the English dictionary and all the quality newspapers.

In fact, comparing the efficiency of words base on syllables, German might have quite a lot to offer. A favourite of mine is “Umwelt” (2) for environment (4) (limited though to the natural world) which has immediately spawned a new German word “unweltfighter” (4) for environmental activist (8). On this basis of course it is clear why the Titanic struck an iceberg and not an ice mountain. It was all to do with efficiency.

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Wanted, a European city willing to embrace the future.

As countless newspaper stories will tell you, including this one from the FT https://www.ft.com/content/981379a8-f58f-11e7-88f7-5465a6ce1a00 the world is moving to English. Like it or not (and many do not) it is certain. Now is the time to for a European city to become officially bilingual . Of course English is widely spoken in many European counties and in any city it is possible to get by without a word of the local tongue but still, English is not “official” anywhere but Dublin or Valletta. So how about it Bratislava, or Prague? Your young people are great in English so why not make it official and embrace the future before somebody else gets with the program and pips you to the finish, scooping up all the businesses that want to work there but can’t because of the language barrier (particularly true of Vienna). Remember, it is not the strong that survive (despite the pop song that tells you it is), it is the adaptable!

One reason that smaller countries are better at English than the big ones is of course TV. The big ones, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, take International programmes, American mostly, and  actually dub the programmes into the local language thereby ensuring that English language will not get a dangerous foothold into the national psyche. The smaller countries and just add subtitles thereby ensuring that the general population (at least those who can read) are at least used to the sound of English, often from a very young age

The trend towards gender neutrality in language probably marks the end of German as we know it today. With no Der, Die, Das the grammar will collapse leaving it with, yes you’ve guess it, English, which is itself a German dialect made simple for all the Anglo Saxons and Norman French forced to live together!

Some have predicted that with Britain out of the EU and the US retreating globally, English will diminish in acceptance. In fact, the contrary is the case. English can now be considered neutral, giving no country the edge in language. Take the case of the world’s latest state, South Sudan. With over 120million people and 100 languages the official language is, yes, you have guessed it again, English.

It’s a long time since I wrote this blog and as I do so it I remember my long time friend and accountant Steve Baldwin. He always gave me feedback on my writings and his recent death, following a short illness is a tragedy.