• Germany's news in English

Deutsche Bahn to ditch English

The Local · 16 Feb 2010, 14:27

Published: 16 Feb 2010 14:27 GMT+01:00

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DB chief Rüdiger Grube has written to parliamentarian Ernst Hinsken of Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) to assure him the company would be moving away from the use of English in its product descriptions, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday.

Hinsken had written to Grube raising his concern about the growing use of English terms and phrases.

In the letter, Grube said the company would no longer be using the term “flyer” to describe its leaflets. Nor would it call its customer service phone number a “hotline” and would be dropping or reviewing other English terms.

However, it would keep using product brand names such as its travel discount “BahnCard” and “InterCity” trains, which it believes people have got used to and would be cumbersome to change.

Some terms will be given German explanations – such as the “Call a Bike” service, which will soon be followed in promotional material by – "das Mietrad-Angebot der Deutschen Bahn" - or “Deutsche Bahn’s bike rental offering.”

The decision comes amid a broader shift in Germany about use of gratuitous and often silly English, with some senior politicians complaining that Anglicisms have started to ruin the German language.

Peter Ramsauer, also from the CSU, told the paper: “I know of no other country on Earth, in which people treat their own language with such a lack of respect.”

The DB complaints stemmed from former school principal Franz Aschenbrenner’s complaint to Hinsken, who was his local parliamentarian. According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, Aschenbrenner was annoyed by the “mindless practice of Anglicisms” – in particular when DB set up a “Kiss&Ride” zone (allowing car drivers to drop off or pick up train passengers without having to park) at Straubing station in Bavaria.

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“What right does Deutsche Bahn have to impose on us a language that isn’t ours?” he asked.

Hinsken passed on the complaint to Grube – partly, it seems to head off any confusion about a recent local newspaper headline, “Hinsken for Kiss&Ride.” Readers with weak English might have thought Hinsken was calling for the establishment of a drive-by red light district.

And so Hinsken asked the company whether they couldn’t come up with a German title for the service. Grube responded immediately that he would have his people come up with an alternative to the Anglicism, to avoid further confusion.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:56 February 16, 2010 by snorge
Good for DB! Always thought it was weird they used english names for things (like a flyer)and products. As a native english speaker, it also sounded weird when it was spoken in German as well.

U guys are German, you should use it and not erode the language.
15:01 February 16, 2010 by peter douglas
this is absolutely absurd,there are so many Germany words that can,t be translated to mean a simple thing example Hotline could be translated as Heiße nummer which means a sex line,weirdos from Bavaria should stop dictacting to the rest of us.what next after shutting down sunday shopping.compulsory attendance of church on sunday.
15:02 February 16, 2010 by steve_glienicke
Think there are much more important things to deal with in germany, but i see no reason not to change, but DB have a long way to go in ensuring at the least english is used in customer documentation and on platform information especially in the capital city with so many tourists on this a lot more could be done to support visitors to the capital
15:36 February 16, 2010 by freechoice

for a moment i thought Germans are trying to be friendly to the English Speakers in Deutschland...

15:40 February 16, 2010 by William Thirteen
Oettinger's Revenge!
15:50 February 16, 2010 by ovbg
Agreed, and England should abolish all their dirty foreign words as well. Why don't we have our own words for Restaurant, Kindergarten or Spaghetti. In fact, I believe MP3 is also a German name.

Oh hang on, language is a natural and evolving all the time. Maybe these German's who are complaining in this case should learn that evolution doesn't have to be forced by government agencies ;O)

Hotline is as meaningless in English as it, or any translation would be in German. It is a name for a service or product.

Some people have way too much time on their hands...
16:51 February 16, 2010 by twisted
Frankly, I have no objections for Deutsche Bahn to eliminate the use of English in its business. It is Germany, it is a German company and certainly signs and other information should be in Germany (with perhaps English underneath to help accommodate non-German speakers).

What I do dislike intensely is the use of wrong English in German advertising. Also, I personally hate clothing that has nonsensical writing on it. Some of it is just absolutely stupid. But some cranky Bavarian¦#39;s dislike of English isn¦#39;t really going to change things….English will continue to be used…after all, it is the world¦#39;s language.
17:35 February 16, 2010 by LMB222
The problem is that it's often not evewn English, but what Germans *think* is English. BahnCard and Handy are two examples. Not at all English, but it's supposed to be.
18:47 February 16, 2010 by Bushdiver
Considering all the other problems the DB is having why would this be at the top of their list to change? I guess the Airports and all other busnesses will have to follow the DB's example. Are they going to raise the fairs as well now to cover the cost of re-wording all all those nasty English names
19:40 February 16, 2010 by nashv

Er, No.

information Look up information at Dictionary.com

late 14c., "act of informing," from O.Fr. informacion, from L. informationem (nom. informatio) "outline, concept, idea," noun of action from informare (see inform). Meaning "knowledge communicated" is from c.1450. Short form info is attested from 1906. Infomercial (with commercial) and infotainment (with entertainment) are from 1983. Before infomercial was the print form, advertorial (1961).

Information has no plural/singular forms. In French, it has acquired so, but not originally in Latin.

Now, more relevant. Its great the Deutsche Bahn wants to move towards more German use, as long as they also keep the English terms. You see, Germany is a global player now, and it makes sense that they make it somewhat easier for foreigners by providing information in what is the worlds most widely spoken language.
19:53 February 16, 2010 by Northumbrian
Excellent news! A round of applause for Messrs Aschenbrenner and Hinsken. I've no problem whatsoever with info at railway stations, airports etc being in English and German, so that foreigners can find the information they need - but I do object to the way Denglish has been allowed to mushroom at the expense of German. Most of it is just pseudo-business, drivel-speak. I find it completely meaningless, and I'm English.
20:04 February 16, 2010 by wxman
@Postman hit the mark! That was my first thought. If they give all these terms German words, you will have words 84 letters long that are simply sentences describing the service or product with all the spaces removed. Much easier to associate with the short English term and be done with it.
20:19 February 16, 2010 by MJTinNOLA
Small town boy, "Kiss & Ride" is a term in use in the US. In the Washington DC area, the suburban metro and Amtrak stations use this term, and you can see it on signs all over.

And you are right about the correct German translation for "service." So they even have a word for it? Not like service is something you will encounter in Germany. Maybe it is more correctly translated as "Hate your customers point." That would be more like something Germans can understand.

And if you want funny Denglish, how about "Hairkiller" the hair salon chain, or something I saw in the store last week: "Animal Farm Bubble Blow" a kind of chewing gum. Those crazy Germans!
22:36 February 16, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I have rarely read so much ignorant blabber in my life as I have in this thread.

It's quite obvious from the ridiculous comments that many of you don't even like Germany. Judging by the fact that you're reading this newspaper, I have to assume you live there. In which case, you should be aware that it's our country - not yours, and if we feel there's too much English about, then that's our business - not yours.

If you should disagree, you're welcome to go back where you came from.
23:33 February 16, 2010 by Fredfeldman
I love the DB's new concern with language. Now it can pretend that it doesn't have the time to provide good service and secure railway stations, its way to busy trying to find the right german substitute terms for its beleaguered ridership. Anyone with half a brain can see the transparent attempt to distract the public from the increasing DB problems. Maybe this new campaign will buy them a bit of pr slack.
00:02 February 17, 2010 by Sebastian Daze
Although I'm not that bothered by the natural evolution of a language, I do find the forced, wanton and often pretentious use of English in Germany pretty annoying.

Notwithstanding the use of phrases such as "I am speaking very well English", "I am cutting my hairs" and their tedency to order "spaghettis", many Germans are so convinced of their mastery of the English language that they are prone to anglicise any and everything - often to ludicrous effect.

My personal bête noire (sorry for the French) is the profusion of coffee shops in Berlin with hand-scrawled signs advertising "Coffee to Go". This phrase is awful even when used in England, let alone in Germany (it's an American phrase which doesn't make sense - "to go" where?) . I even saw one shop advertising "Coffee zum to go"!
01:16 February 17, 2010 by mhdamro
hehe ... well ... i find it quite interesting to see all these germans talking about "WHEN YOU ARE IN GERMANY YOU SHOULD SPEAK GERMAN" .... but when they go to SPAIN, FRANCE, EGYPT, or GREECE ... they suddenly forget that ... and want everyone there to speak English .....

i think they are just some insecure and ignorant germans who cant speak english, and try to shield themselves behind this "PROTECT OUR LANGUAGE" crap ....

am not an english, nor an american, actually i come from a THIRD world country ..... but i bit you can find more people speaking English in these "3rd world" countries than in Germany ....

look if you want it that way no problem ...i would pay 100 bucks to see one of these germans talk SPANISH or ARABIC when they go on a holiday .......

no offense guys ...... take it easy ......................... and chill out
08:01 February 17, 2010 by mankso
und es heißt/and it's called: Verein Deutsche Sprache -


And what's wrong with 'Kundendienst' for 'Service Point'? It worked well in the past.

And while I'm at it, why not mention der Deutsche Esperanto-Bund [YOUR ethnic language for each one of us + non-ethnic Esperanto for all]:

08:01 February 17, 2010 by ColoSlim
Well done to the author, despite the low news value of the subject, this article has really brought some opinions out of the woodwork. I guess that says something about us readers.

The change is fine; anyone can see a person wearing a uniform and assume they are there to give out information. You don't need a sign saying much other than "i" or "?"

As for the term "hotline" anyone browsing a website can see a telephone number amongst text. I don't think companies in the U.S. use the term "hotline" because firms prefer to be more customer oriented terms like "Customer Service" or "Member Services."

In terms of relative service levels, DB actually provides good customer service compared to the average airline.
13:55 February 17, 2010 by wmartin
Wait, wait ... Disrespect the German language? Have you seen what the rest of the world does to English? I am all for protecting the German langauge. But I would not call Call A Bike a desacration. C'mon, English is the lingua franca of the world. You can't ignore that simple fact. When anyone from anywhere in the world comes to Germany, what language do they have to speak to get understood? That would be English.
14:00 February 17, 2010 by taylor_seb
Most of the bastardized uses of English I come across in Germany start off as amusing and soon become very annoying.

Travelling on the tram in Berlin means that everyday I get to hear the announcement for the last stop on the line, "... this tram terminates there." How difficult would it have been to run that past an English speaker and have the difference between here and there explained? It grates more and more every time I hear it.

I also hate the ever increasing usage of verbs such as downloaden (runterladen), uploaden (hochladen), arrangen (arrangieren/vereinbaren), etc. I hadn't heard the poker related ones before, but watch any presentations on social media or technology and you'll be amazed at how effortlessly German speakers incoroprate mangled versions of English words.

As others have mentioned, nouns such as Handy (cell/mobile phone) and Beamer (projector) demonstrate the German fixation with English used incorrectly. Kiss&Ride is a great example of something that 99% of native English speakers would never understand.
14:02 February 17, 2010 by lordwilliams629
I see two sides to this, the first is having english signs makes it easy for the many paying customers that speak english, wich also makes it easy for the workers who don't have to be botherd by non speaking germans trying to find their way around, so in that sense they screw themselfs. Now the other side of this point is germany like many other european countrys are being forced to give up their language and culture by foreigners who want to take over and refuse to learn and assimilate with the country they move to. So in that sense maybe it's not so bad. I also wish people would start taking signs in spanish down in my country (USA) as well, it's about time western countrys start taking back their countrys and culture.
14:33 February 17, 2010 by HarryR
German should be spoken in Germany. I first lived in Germany in the mid 80s. Having spent most of the last 2 years here, I'm astonished how English words are displacing German words in German conversation. Slang and casual use of Anglicisms in conversations is one thing, if the Germans want to use them that's their choice, But their general and excessive use by a corporation as part of it's corporate identity seems like an attempt to be 'cool'. Non-German tourists who make the effort to travel to Germany are capable of recognising the German words they need when using DB or they can use their travelguide which will be more useful, anyway. This overuse of Anglicisms says more about how DB sees itself than it's wish to assist foreign tourists.

English words can go thru a mangler on being adopted by German.

An example is 'Wellness' which doesn't exist in English itself but is used universally in German to describe what in England would be called a spa. 'Spa' is a German word!

It's great to speak more than our own language, but our most important language is out native one. We'll never be more articulate or better able to express ourselves in any situation or add humour or implication than in our own tongue and that level determines the fluency we can achieve in foreign languages. France is right to defend French, even as many French people can learn foreign languages including English.
16:11 February 17, 2010 by Eric Daniels
I am a German speaking American who has lived in Germany, as a professional soldier, and now as a government civilian, for twenty of the past twenty-eight years. I have taken the DB everywhere without issue. When I returned to Germany in late 2008, and resumed frequent train travel, I was surprised to hear announcements in the train cars in English, sort-of! For example, the conductors would announce schedules and connections in German for a minute or more, without pause. Then they would employ English, and say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Sank-You for traveling with the Deutsche Bahn." Which would encompass, maybe 8 seconds of speaking, vice the minute or more in German. Most of the people who work for the DB who try to speak English, ought not! Kudos to them for trying, but I never speak English on a German train, and to be honest, from what I have heard, neither do the DB employees. Germans have their pride! With all the middle Easterners here and all the non-Native born "Germans" everywhere, it is not fitting to be recalcitrant to speaking English or posting signs in English, but in an obtuse way, Germans feel it is their sovereign right to not get with the international "program" of English, holding fast, while gazillions of Middle Easterners erode the true German culture. It is odd but entertaining in the observing of the German ... nature!


Eric Daniels
16:49 February 17, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I can't even understand this discussion. A german railway company wants to speak more german. HEAVEN FORBID! THE WORLD IS ENDING! PANIC! RUN!

Shush. What we do with our language is our business.
22:32 February 17, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Who cares? Living in Germany is like living in prison -- eventually you learn the language of the prison guards in order to survive. Period.
10:24 February 18, 2010 by AppalachianMeetTaunus
Whenever I speak German to customer service folks, no matter if I'm in Burger King or Lufthansa, they respond to me with an eyeroll and imperfect, exasperated English. And I'm not speaking tourist German with my nose in a phrase book, I'm fluent. This has happened from Berlin to Bavaira, across the country. Why did I spend all that time and effort learning German?

I understand if Germans want to protect their language and have it be the primary language spoken/written, but they can't have their cake and eat it too. Don't complain that all these English phrases and words are worming their way in, then refuse to speak German with someone who can.
11:04 February 18, 2010 by Prufrock2010
German "customer service folks" is an oxymoron on a par with "military intelligence." The only "service" these folks provide to the customers is to tell them that something can't be done, or that something that would normally be done in a hour in any first world country "might be" possible in a week. Germany is the northernmost third world country on the planet but without the charm. The arrogance, rudeness and utter lack of common social graces that permeate this so-called culture are simply astonishing. The Germans may be able to engineer some of the finest consumer automobiles in the world, but they don't even know how to package a bag of potato chips. Why do they co-opt so many English words and phrases for their marketing? Because almost nobody outside of Germany, Austria (now there's a gem!) or Switzerland speaks or wants to speak German. With the possible exception of a few South American nazi colonies.

I think the German government should enact a law purging all English words and phrases from German advertising, promotion, speech and signage. They have a long and storied history of "purging" things. Then watch how fast the economy tanks when foreign visitors get the message that they and their money are not wanted here. I would rather see it made official than have to endure the hostile "withering looks" of snotty, supercilious "service people" and merchants while wondering what I did to offend them. Foreigners offend Germans merely by their existence.
11:22 February 18, 2010 by loz_adele
I completely agree with LMB222, the problem is that Germans often take English words and attach a new meaning to them and then a lot of Germans tend to believe that this is real English, e.g. Peeling instead of exfoliator. Such words are a nightmare to translate, especially when the client insists that these words are kept in the text, despite you assuring them that they are not actually English. Personally, I hate it when they mix languages if there is a German equivalent. I know a lot of Germans who do this when speaking and say things like 'es ist ein bisschen too much'. But it's only because I love the German language and think there's no reason not to use German equivalents, provided there is one.
12:12 February 18, 2010 by snorge
A little bit off the track but totally agreeing with Twisted is english in clothing or in company branding and names.

I saw a guy walking around with a sweatshirt saying "Monday Night Martini Sailboat Driver" -stupidist thing I have ever seen, but the graphics of the text were colorful. I wonder if he really knew what the text meant if he's wear it that stupid thing?

Also saw an advertizing company named "Go/No Go" in Stuttgart -off Rt 27. I just laugh my ass off.... thinking "these silly Germans..." They want to sound international but come across as retarded to to rest of the English speaking world.

Seriously been thinking of starting a consulting buiness advising German companies on what a native English speaker would consider stupid to call a company or put on clothing. I'd bet I'd make a million bucks!

Too bad I'm TESA and can't do it!
13:28 February 18, 2010 by farrisjeff
They would be learning Russian if it wasnt for Americans, here in Berlin anyway. I agree its not totally necessary to have English words outside of the metropolitan areas, but it sure is nice.
15:36 February 18, 2010 by Stein Sjølie
@Der Grenadier aus Aachen

"Ehre wem Ehre gebührt"... your English is impeccable.

Still you sound like a right-wing crank: "Wem es hier nicht gefällt, kann ja nach drüben gehen."

@all others

Some of the alledgedly English terms that DB (and others) use, are silly, mistaken, misspelled or whatever. But that's not DB's major problem.

The real problem with DB is punctuality and reliability. Short: To run on schedule.

If DB does that, I think that most Germans will put up with funny foreign terms, since they won't need the ServicePoint, Auskunft, Information, you name it, so much.
16:22 February 18, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
@Stein Sjølie

I can understand why you might say that; and certainly, some of my positions may coincide with them. However, I should clarify what those positions actually are - and define the limit of their scope.

The slow assimilation of English into the German language isn't the actual problem. That is a symptom; namely, a symptom of the slow export of American culture into Europe. That is the real problem. I won't defend that position here, since it's a long topic, and I think you can imagine some of the issues I might have with it.

The second is far more pragmatic. German was the language of science and philosophy for hundreds of years. It's a beautiful, ancient language, that is responsible for an entire tree of derivatives and parallel evolutions - including English. It's a cultural good, and it deserves preservation.

As for your quote above, it's really simply the truth. DB is obviously responding to the popular voice. After all, they are a business. So if the popular opinion of Germans is that they would like DB to use more German, then that is entirely proper, and there is no appropriate grounds for anyone object. It's not as if we'll stop trying to help English-speaking customers, but it *is* our country after all. So, if that very extensive concession isn't enough for any given person...well...they can always leave.
16:50 February 18, 2010 by Stein Sjølie
@AppalachianMeetTaunus - or one Hill Billy the other ;-))

If you speak fluent German, and get responses in more or less pidgin English, there must be something about your accent that makes the other guy spot you as English speaking and makes him decide that his English is better than your German. -Goes for the girls too-

That is tough, but easily explained. English intonation, it be Queen's or American, has fewer sounds than German or other languages. Additionally, some of the English sounds can't be used in German because they never turn up. Now, learning a language is one thing, that can be trained, while learning to produce alien sounds at a later time in life is often next to impossible. Try teaching a righthanded person to write with his left hand...
13:57 February 19, 2010 by loz_adele
@Taylor_Seb and HarryR

You are so right! 'Wellness' is my pet peeve, although unfortunately it now seems to have made its way into English (even on that Grey's Anatomy spinoff, Private Practice, the clinic in the program is called a Wellness Center *gag*). Last month I even had an email from a client telling me to check out his 'gerelaunchte Website' - why?! Just why??! It's not big and it's not clever.
17:40 February 19, 2010 by markoer
> The problem is that it's often not evewn English, but what Germans *think* is

> English. BahnCard and Handy are two examples. Not at all English, but it's

> supposed to be.

LOL, it's full of those examples, like the the "beamer" the all the Germans think it's the proper name for a projector? (we are all beamed on the Enterprise at every meeting :-D) or peeling for an exfoliator.

However I don't really get is all of this hate about German "service". English speakers are very well known to be totally retarded with foreign languages, so they should just shut up instead of commenting about Germans trying to speak English. I know Americans living in Germany for 20 and more years and still speaking German worst than the latest Turkish immigrant. Shame on you!

Marco (Italian...).
06:14 February 20, 2010 by 0234maxwell
Hello to all you sausage munchers---------- I will be back with you all very soon as I have a brand new baby girl and missus waiting for me in a

German town beginning with D. I love Germany and as you can see been doing a lot of loving inside of Germany and I have been butchering the language badly since I arrived many years ago and most of the population seem ok with it and if they can understand my really bad German then I am sure these humerous attempts at real English are not going to confuse a highly intelligent and educated German population with a sound sense of humour.


07:03 February 20, 2010 by InTheBubble
This follows nicely the anti-USA attitudes of Germany for the past decade. We rich American tourists stopped visiting Germany some years ago when Germans turned cold and nasty toward us. Luckily we had enjoyed Germany for many years when Germans were our friends. Now we are welcomed in France and Switzerland, and Germany is merely a memory. So I see no negatives in DB's elimination of English signage. I do wonder at the thought process, however, behind the mouthful of "das Mietrad-Angebot der Deutschen Bahn", when "DB Mietrad" would have done just fine.
10:55 February 23, 2010 by Joshontour
Why should it matter to the Germans, they can't even read the signs posted in their own language. Every train platform has no smoking signs written in German and they cannot understand that; so what's the difference if it is German, English, or even Russian?

That being said, I am glad that it is being changed. I understand German much better than bad English. I never understood what was meant by Call-a-Bike. How can you call a bike?
17:14 February 24, 2010 by www.deutschermichel.com
Germany will win the next world cup. I hear they can score "im blackout"!!!!!!!In total darkness through a powercut.I presume, that is what they mean by "blackout" with refference to football in Germany!?

Denglish terms, idiotic words created by idiotic people for idiotic Germans.

Das Ausland lacht sich tot ueber den deutschen Michel!
15:17 March 22, 2010 by Eric Daniels
My initial post was #104, but I need to concede something more. American who think they are speaking English, or for that matter, anything distinguishable. Just yesterday, at a Pizza Hut restaurant, in Heidelberg, right across from a MacDonalds, I was quite amused. A black American ordered the following : " A LARGE PEP, DUBBA CHEESE, CUT IT UP BIG TIME ".. Translated to: " A large pepperobu Pizza, double amount of cheese, slice it into many slices!" Of course there was no please or thank you spoken. I asked the ordering individual if they were American, he responded, "AFRICAN AMERICAN!" I asked which of the 53 countires in the African Continent are you from and how long had he been a naturalized American? He did not respond and appeared to not, at all, comprehend what I was asking him. So, how well do you speak English, some Americans, who may not even know where they come from at all????????

Best and confused.

Eric Daniels
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