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Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

Denglisch - a hybrid of Deutsch and English - can refer to the half-and-half way Germans and foreigners speak to each other. But Germans use plenty of English words amongst themselves - although they don’t always mean the same thing.

A German for Dummies language book sits atop a desk next to a pen and a cup of coffee. Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash
A German for Dummies language book sits atop a desk next to a pen and a cup of coffee. Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

English speakers are no stranger to using certain German words when speaking English—schadenfreude and kindergarten being perhaps the most obvious. The process is possibly even more advanced in reverse.

Many Germans are proud of being able to speak English well, and the Berlin Wall’s fall in 1989 only accelerated the process, as a redefined international community – with English as the main global language – beckoned.

Now English words are found in all parts of German life. Many Germans don’t even necessarily understand why. English-language cultural influence is certainly a part of German life, but the dubbing of television shows, to use just one example, remains far more widespread in Germany than in many smaller European countries, which use original audio with subtitles.

Here’s a selection of anglicisms that Germans use with each other. 

READ ALSO: Could Denglisch one day kill of English?

‘Coffee-To-Go’ or ‘Takeaway’

‘Ein Kaffee zum mitnehmen’ is correct and your coffee shop owner will definitely understand what you want if you ask for it. But plenty of Germans will ask for a ‘Coffee-To-Go,’ even when speaking German to a German barista. This seems to only apply to coffee ordered on the move, however. If you’re sitting down at a table, expect to order the German Kaffee.

Getting a coffee-to-go in Berlin.

Getting a Coffee-To-Go in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

Human Resources, ‘Soft Skills’ and ‘Manager’

‘Personalabteilung’ is still used to describe a human resources department. But plenty of German companies—whether international or mostly German will use Human Resources even in German-language communication. Although ‘Leiter’ and ‘Leiterin,’ meaning ‘leader’ are used, even German job titles will use “Manager.” The word ‘Manager’ has even been adapted to accommodate German noun genders. A female manager, may be referred to as a ‘Managerin’.

READ ALSO: How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The world of work in Germany is also notable for importing another contemporary English term. ‘Soft Skills’ is used in German when recruiters are looking to see if a candidate might fit culturally into a particular workplace. The words actually describing these skills, like ‘Führungskompetenz’ or ‘leadership ability,’ often sound unmistakably German though. But there are exceptions. ‘Multitasking’ is used in German as well.

‘Clicken,’ ‘Uploaden,’ ‘Downloaden’ and ‘Home Office’

As technology that came of age relatively recently, German has imported many English terms related to technology and the Internet. While web browsers might use ‘Herunterladen’ instead of ‘download’ or ‘hochladen’ instead of ‘upload,’ Germans are just as likely to use the slightly Germanized version of the English word, hence ‘downloaden’.

READ ALSO: Seven English words Germans get delightfully wrong

Even before ‘Home Office’ appeared on German tax returns, to calculate what credit workers could get from remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘Home Office’ was still widely used in German to describe, well, working from home. It can be confusing for English speakers, though, especially those from the UK, because the Home Office is a department in the British government. 

English words that have slightly different meanings in German – ‘Shitstorm’ and ‘Public Viewing’

There are English words Germans use that don’t always mean quite the same thing to a native English speaker. An English speaker from the UK or Ireland, for example, might associate a ‘public viewing’ with an open casket funeral. Germans, however, tends to use “public viewing” almost exclusively to mean a large screening, usually of an event, that many people can gather to watch for free. Placing a large television at the Brandenburg Gate for German Football Team matches is perhaps the most immediately recognisable example of a ‘public viewing’.

Then there’s what, at least to native English speakers, might sound outright bizarre. But former Chancellor Angela Merkel herself used “Shitstorm” more than once while in office. In German though, it can refer specifically to a social media backlash involving heated online comments.

Another typical English-sounding word used in German differently is ‘Handy’ – meaning cellphone (well, it does fit in your hand). It can sound a bit strange to English speakers, though. 

Other words, however, more or less mean what you think they do – such as when one German newspaper referred to Brexit as a ‘Clusterfuck’.

READ ALSO: Shitstorm ‘best English gift to German language’

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For members


How Germany’s population is changing during the pandemic

Immigration is causing the population in Germany to grow slightly again after stagnating during the pandemic. Here's what we learned from the latest report on population changes.

How Germany's population is changing during the pandemic

How is immigration influencing population changes in the pandemic?

At the end of 2021, around 83.2 million people lived in Germany – that’s 0.1 percent or 82,000 more than at the end of the previous year.

The development was mainly due to an increase in net immigration, said the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). Around 317,000 more people came to Germany than left in 2021.

Initially, the statistics office predicted that the German population would see a stronger stagnation in 2021.

It comes after net immigration decreased significantly in the first pandemic year. Since reunification, the number of people living in Germany has mostly grown. However, in 2020, Germany’s population stayed the same for the first time since 2011.

Destatis said that the the number of people immigrating from abroad to Germany was down by 24 percent in 2020, while the number of people emigrating from Germany was down 22 percent year on year.

They said changes in migration patterns were particularly significant among young adults aged 18 to 22.

It means that the number of immigrants who came to Germany in 2021 was almost at pre-pandemic levels. At the end of 2019, net immigration stood at 327,000 people.

At the same time, the excess of deaths over births in Germany continued to rise in 2021 to 228,000 (2020: 212,000).

Germany’s population figures are calculated using data on registered births and deaths as well as from the arrivals and departures reported to the statistical offices by authorities. 

Experts say the stats can change as more information becomes available. 

What else do we know about the German population?

At the end of 2021, 72.3 million people with German citizenship, and 10.9 million people with foreign citizenship lived in Germany.

The proportion of foreigners in the total population increased from 12.7 to 13.1 percent compared to the previous year.

As in the previous year, the number of older people continued to rise in 2021. The group aged 60 and over saw an increase of 341,000 people to 24.4 million (+1.4  percent). And the very elderly aged 80 and over rose sharply to 6.1 million (+175 000 or +3.0  percent) people.

The number of senior citizens between 60 and 79-years-old was 18.3 million at the end of 2021 (+166 000 persons or +0.9  percent). At the same time, the number of people aged 20 to 59 fell to 43.4 million (-358 000 persons or -0.8  percent). In contrast, the number of children and young people under 20 increased by 99,000 or 0.6  percent to 15.4 million.

The average age of the German population increased slightly by 0.1 years to 44.7 years.

What’s the situation in different parts of Germany?

Population development in 2021 varied from region to region: in absolute terms, the population in Bavaria increased the most with an increase of about 37,000 people, followed by Lower Saxony (+24,000) and Baden-Württemberg (+22,000).

In percentage terms, Schleswig-Holstein and Berlin (+0.4  percent each) had the highest increases in population. There were also population losses in Bremen, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia.

The below table shows the population changes in German regions.

Screenshot: Federal Statistical Office

Chart: Federal Statistical Office

Overall, the western German states (excluding Berlin) recorded a population increase of 98,000 people to 67.1 million. Although this increase was significantly higher than in 2020 (+24,000), it was still below the level before the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in 2019 (+144,000).

In eastern Germany (excluding Berlin), the population continued to decline (by 30,000), and stood at 12.5 million at the end of the year.


Immigration – (die) Zuwanderung

Population – (die) Bevölkerung

Increased/grown – gewachsen

Previous year – (der) Vorjahr

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.