Sunday, September 1, 2013

How far will your English get you?

        A trip across continents lets you experience firsthand how the world keeps moving closer             together language wise --or how far your English will get with you!

The attempt at creating a universal language, Esperanto, that can easily be learned by all the people of the world failed decades ago. English established itself as the communication medium of the world.  
Whenever I visit my home country I see more and more English expressions creeping into my native language. (French has the Academie Francaise who actively works to prevent Anglicanism/Americanisms gaining too much leverage in French).
In German, food related English expressions (burgers, fast food) and IT related terms (computer) were the first to make their way into the language many years ago. (The poor French still have to deal with an ordinateur; no computer for them)!
One of the first technical terms adopted into German was the word Handy; its origin is uncertain. Obviously you always have it with you, in your hand and it’s handy. What is it? It’s a cell or mobile phone. Why was that descriptive term not transferred into the English language?
American culture has long influenced the world. The music scene gave us Germans loan words that are firmly established in our native tongue now: e.g.: pop stars, love parade, pop festival.  World globalization did the rest to anglicize my native language.
When traveling in Germany you'll find that most people speak English to some degree. Since my childhood days learning English has been compulsory for school children as of 10 years of age. Recently that law was changed so that you now have the choice of starting at six. Therefore most people have the basics or a solid grounding even if they lack practice.
Although there are German equivalents, Germans speak of something being cool, a loser, junkies, car rental, and even more complex word combinations like Offshore wind parks or MMA :Mixed martial arts fighting challenge.

What if it was the other way round? You're safe! Only few German words made it into English:
Wunderkind, Kindergarten, Sitzbad(th), Realpolitik, Gestalt, maybe Hausfrau? I came across Kaffeeklatsch when I lived in Dublin. Then there are some tainted ones like Lebensraum or Blitz that hang around. And then there is  Zeitgeist.
Several years back, under a previous administration I felt the time was right to introduce another word into the English domain: Volksverdummung. It means “deliberate deception of the public.” (See my Ezinearticle).
Alas, it never took off.
You native English speakers were lucky: Long before I ever came to the US, I heard the story of how, a long, long time ago, the US voted on an official language. In events packed with drama, opinions were split between English and German. It all came down to the final vote: English won- by a single vote, because one German-favoring guy was sitting on the toilet.

Gripping as this story may be, it is not exactly true. The Legendary English-Only Vote of 1795 in which German almost became the official language of the US is an Urban Legend.
I consider myself lucky that the Chinese language hasn’t taken over world domination in spite of China having many more speakers than all English speakers on the planet combined and that I can still happily struggle trying to master my English!

Happy Labor Day! Still traveling in Germany & technically challenged in the hills of the  Black Forest. I'll try to run the site from here during the remainder of my stay though the Internet connection via data stick here in the sticks in southern Germany is a hilly challenge.
I want to take this opportunity to give a big public thank you to my Internet friend and  fellow writer Scott Bury. Not only did he jump to my rescue but outdid me by far with his exceptional skills editing, tweeting and revamping the site. That plus his own contacts thrown in made WGT go from strength to strength.For me it has been an inspiring experience.
So feel free, all you readers and writers to keep up the momentum. We need you! Happy writing and good luck on your new endeavors, Scott! Don't be a stranger!

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