Friday, August 3, 2018

English buzzwords as a power tool for German managers

One of the more insidious uses of language is not treated with the seriousness the blogster would like to see around the subject: management lingo in other languages peppered with English phrases.

You may think of Denglish, which brings up images of bumbling folks - regular everyday use or professional context - as well as voices warning of sinister Anglo-American cultural imperialism.

But there is a phenomenon that looks like standard Denglish but reflects an intra cultural struggle for power. When the topic comes up, it is dealt with in a humorous manner, dismissive and tongue in cheek, for example in this article by German daily WELT.

The language of management and its primary servants, the consultants, can be difficult enough to understand in its original English language and cultural setting but gains an additional dimension of complexity when bits and pieces are inserted into another culture.

The common uses, such as hype, pompousness, euphemism of the original can change in the new setting. the change can be as small as conveying "I speak a language you don't" or achieve new levels of obfuscation beyond what the phrase can do in a native environment.

Some of the 19 examples of phrase injection in the Welt piece do emphasize use of English as a means to ask for more power, to exert or demand compliance while softening the harshness by using a semi-English turn of phrase.

That gross and demeaning feature of English in a non-native setting is less tongue in cheek and more thong in cheek.

You are welcome.

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