Germans fight Anglo invasion

September 22, 2000

The rector of Munich University has been named Sprachpanscher (language violator) of the year by an organisation that campaigns to protect the German language for proposing to change the university's faculties into Anglo-American "departments".

The Association for the German Language says there are perfectly good German words for "department", such as Abteilung and Fachbereich, which are commonly used in German universities.

Munich's rector, Andreas Heldrich, said there were no plans to rename the faculties. The university is setting up departments below faculty level to join chairs and institutes and make more efficient use of resources.

"Of course, the term was not chosen by accident. It stands for a programme that aims to lead the achievements of Munich University to the level of top United States universities," he said.

This is the fourth time the Association for the German Language has awarded its annual prize for violation of German language and culture. Previous recipients were Hamburg fashion designer Jil Sander, Deutsche Telecom boss Ron Sommer and Deutsche Bank chairman Johannes Ludewig.

Walter Kramer, a statistics expert at Dortmund University who founded the association, said that its 10,000 members were exasperated by the unnecessary use of English in conversation, advertising, political campaigning and academia. "They are not against the English language; many of them can speak it better than the English," he said.

The organisation also criticised the latest edition of the Duden dictionary for including "English" words, such as chatten (to chat via computer), downloaden (to download), wellness (a concept of health and fitness) and skaten (to skate), which, according to Professor Kramer, do not belong in the German dictionary. "There are useful and familiar German words for all those terms, which show more respect towards our language," he said.

Professor Kramer claimed that by carelessly listing English words, editors of the Duden dictionary were merely recording words used in German rather than supervising the development of the language.

He accused the dictionary's editors of handing responsibility for the development of German over to "advertising and cyber geeks".

Professor Kramer said that when important information was given only in English (such as signs in German taxis saying "fasten safety belts"), it should be challenged by consumer legislation.

In an article for the magazine Forschung und Lehre, Professor Kramer warned: "With this embarrassing attempt to curry favour with English, we are sending the world an unmistakable vote of no confidence against our own language."

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