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Volkswagen is changing its official language from German to English

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:31
German to English
Pidgin, not English Jan 5, 2017

I don't know about the specific situation at Volkswagen, but I think that Deutsche Telekom introduced a similar policy a decade or so ago. With the possible exception of factory workers and some low-level service jobs, the fact is that the vast majority of these companies' employees are Germans or have lived in Germany for a substantial amount of time and they will now suddenly be forced to communicate poorly in a foreign language. I actually know people from Telekom who have to write to each other in their broken English because of these policies.
The vast majority of people in the world cannot speak English very well, but no one seems interested in that fact.
In terms of the German economy it also seems important to establish German as an important language in business and scholarship. I'm not for artificially forcing people to speak German any more than I am for forcing them to speak English, but if people stopped mindlessly touting English as a lingua franca, it would be a help to internationally important languages like Spanish and French and to regionally important languages like German.


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Rosalind Haigh
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:31
German to English
+ ...
Not to mention the translators ... Jan 5, 2017

... who receive the documents written in strangulated English that is often entirely incomprehensible, with no German source text, with the request to "please just look through this and tidy it up a bit".

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Serena Basili  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 10:31
English to Italian
+ ...
Du hast Recht, Michael! Jan 5, 2017

I don't really understand why they would do it...one thing is that one has to send an email/call someone who can't speak German, another is being forced to speak English anyway. VW have their root in Germany, it's the story of the company, and everyone thinks of German quality when speaking about VW. It's like they're trying to distance themselves from their origins, but that makes no sense to me.
I also want to make a small consideration: nowadays, I see English words randomly used also in my native language, even when we have a perfectly equivalent term (and no one can pronounce properly the English one btw). This does not help preserving the language, which may obviously change with time, but must not disappear. One of the nice things of the world, to me, is that we have so many different languages that match with different features and cultures and it's always a positive experience when you meet someone from a different "world". Trying to iron out languages it's also smoothing over cultures, in any context, even in the technical ones.
For example, I now work in a translation dept. of a company and my colleagues come from many EU nations, yet we speak different languages among us: one of the French speaks Italian with me because she can speak my language, the Belgians speak Dutch with anyone who speaks it, and so on. Everyone should encourage this kind of variety, it's just enriching.

Edited for typo :|

[Edited at 2017-01-05 09:27 GMT]


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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:31
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Wise decision! Jan 5, 2017

This allows Volkswagen to put their future scandals (those like the emissions scandal) on bad translations (English source texts, poorly translated from German into "English" by German engineers and then translated back from "best rate" Germans into German again).

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:31
English to Croatian
+ ...
lol. Jan 5, 2017

Matthias Brombach wrote:
(English source texts, poorly translated from German into "English" by German engineers and then translated back from "best rate" Germans into German again).


This is funny, but unfortunately usually a true state of affairs in corporate translation. The higher profit a corporation makes internationally, the lower rate they will be looking for translation.


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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:31
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
True indeed Jan 5, 2017

Lingua 5B wrote:
...but unfortunately usually a true state of affairs in corporate translation.


German, Austrian, Dutch and especially engineers from Asia often tend to "translate" their manuals directly into English (of course slangy and plastered with synonyms) and then expect a translation, which requires mind readers rather than translators.

[Edited at 2017-01-05 10:36 GMT]


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:31
Member (2014)
English to German
Warum? Jan 5, 2017

I think it damages the brand, if that is still possible.

But why would they decide to do that? Is it control, so that some of the non German speaking top managers can understand everything?


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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:31
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
Pidgin, not English Jan 5, 2017

Michael Wetzel wrote:

but if people stopped mindlessly touting English as a lingua franca, it would be a help to internationally important languages like Spanish and French and to regionally important languages like German.
Fully agree. But French already helps itself (if I may say so): in France, it is forbidden by law to force employees to use English (or any other foreign languages). Employees can of course use English if they want to, but they have a legal right to use French. That's the same piece of law that also ensure that French consumers have a right to be informed in French about what they buy and that stipulates a minimum quota of songs in French language on the radio. I know this sounds odd to many (all?) other countries, but it seems to work not that bad.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:31
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Meiner Meinung nach ist es keine gute Idee Jan 5, 2017

It depends how the rules are worded and put into practice. English is the 'new Latin', and in practice may be the only option in a large group, but employees should not be discouraged from using their own language when appropriate.

In any given situation, the language used should be the one that is best understood by those present. Struggling with the language leads to muddled thinking and misunderstandings.

I know how I sometimes struggle with my third and fourth languages, and say what I CAN say, rather than what I would want to say in my preferred languages! That is fine for polite phrases and chat, but it is not good enough for serious business.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:31
German to English
Unfortunate trend Jan 5, 2017

A large German manufacturer of electronics products has been moving away from having its service manuals translated from German to English. Instead, the authors have been producing documents in "English" with editing performed by native speakers. This provides more work for editors, but I'm not sure whether the final product is always equivalent to a good translation, since given time constraints and the volume involved, there's a strong temptation to consider some segments "good enough" rather than rewriting them.

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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:31
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Hopefully on the factory work floor, too! Jan 5, 2017

As an earlier Volkswagen plant technician I strongly welcome this initiative and would like have to introduced this regulation on the work floor, too. Many of my colleagues in those times then would have to think first about which words to use before they say anything at all...
Moreover, like the most Germans on that level nowadays:
They dress themselves like they think US Americans do, they behave themselves like they think US Americans do, they watch US TV series and think, that´s the reality for their cultural background, too, and they eat like they think US Americans do, then why not trying to speak like US Americans do?

[Edited at 2017-01-05 14:45 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:31
Member (2008)
Italian to English
then why not trying to speak like US Americans do? Jan 5, 2017

Matthias Brombach wrote:

As an earlier Volkswagen plant technician I strongly welcome this initiative and would like have to introduced this regulation on the work floor, too. Many of my colleagues in those times then would have to think first about which words to use before they say anything at all...
Moreover, like the most Germans on that level nowadays:
They dress themselves like they think US Americans do, they behave themselves like they think US Americans do, they watch US TV series and think, that´s the reality for their cultural background, too, and they eat like they think US Americans do, then why not trying to speak like US Americans do?

[Edited at 2017-01-05 14:45 GMT]


Yes, Matthias, your post is a very good example of that ("example" should be pronounced "ekksampel")

icon_smile.gif

I would like to meet the decision-makers at VW who decided to impose this stupid idea. I would say things to them, in English, that they certainly would not understand.

[Edited at 2017-01-05 14:49 GMT]


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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:31
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Nothing else... Jan 5, 2017

Tom in London wrote:

Yes, Matthias, your post is a very good example of that ("example" should be pronounced "ekksampel")

icon_smile.gif



... to be expected frrrommm you like sisss!


I would say things to them, in English, that they certainly would not understand.


I´m sorry for your strong Irish accent...


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Ricki Farn
Germany
Local time: 10:31
Member (2005)
English to German
Good thing I don't drive Jan 6, 2017

This is why Germans are dangerous even in times of peace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR0lWICH3rY

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:31
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Skibet er forsinket... Jan 6, 2017

Ricki Farn wrote:

This is why Germans are dangerous even in times of peace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR0lWICH3rY


Reminds me of an episode in the first year after I came to Denmark.
My heading is Danish for 'The ship has been delayed' ...

I was waiting in a queue at the port of Esbjerg, hoping to board the ferry home to England. An announcement came over the loudspeakers, with an explanation I did not quite catch, and finally that crucial sentence.
The English family behind me were very upset: "Does that mean the ship has sunk?"
I had learnt enough Danish to know that no, it was just late. As the explanation in English came over the loudspeakers, the ship could be seen sailing into its berth, returning several hours late from its last voyage, but undamaged!

And then there is always the Danish word eventuelt, which does NOT mean eventually as in Eventually, we were allowed to board the ship.

False friends and traps abound, and it is often important to know whose version of the lingua franca a speaker is using - English is not just English!

That said, many non-natives speak impressively good, understandable English, and thank goodness for that.


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