Spiegel Online Interview (DE and EN)

Luxus linguae blogs an interview in Spiegel Online (English version) with Peter Torry, the British ambassador to Germany. It’s partly about the German stereotypes of the British.

I’m sorry to be so petty, but I couldn’t help seeing the first line quoted:

bq. SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your German colleague in Great Britain, Ambassador Matussek, put it very differently over the weekend.

‘Your German colleague in Great Britain’ indeed! When will they get native speakers to go over this kind of thing?

The best message for me is probably not to mourn the death of the English language, but to take an interest in it as a curiosity.

English version
Deutsche Version

4 thoughts on “Spiegel Online Interview (DE and EN)

  1. So it’s probably good that at the bottom-right of the English version they’ve got an advert for an ‘English(wo)man’ [sic] to join them as an ‘intern’ [sic]. Oh the irony – you always know they really mean it when they advertise for a native-speaker editor (or similar) and their advert contains mistakes or inconsistencies. Worse, though, is when you see adverts by native-speaker editors offering their services, and you just want to contact them to tell them about all the mistakes in their own advert! (I’ve seen some examples of this recently.)

    As for the content of the interview: the longer it went on, the more it would have been in the ambassador’s (undiplomatic) rights to say: ‘Well, actually, let’s not pretend here that the Nazis didn’t happen; it’s not surprising that they’re still remembered only sixty years later.’ This seems to have been the kind of sensationalist comment that the dirt-seeking interviewer was trying to get, probably knowing full-well that she (Lisa Erdmann) was trying in vain. All she got, in fact, was a warning: stop trying to create a problem out of absolutely nothing. Hear, hear!

    I haven’t read the Spiegel for years, but glancing at the online version now, I’m quite surprised: am I remembering it incorrectly, or has it always been quite so sensationalistic?

  2. That mixed-up British/American advert also wants a resume rather than a CV.

    About the Nazi slant in British tabloids – I suppose one problem is that from abroad, you can never see the proportion of things in the national imagination properly. Some Germans report there are a lot of war films on TV. And I know some Germans and know of others whose children have been treated badly and who’ve had stones thrown at them because they were German. So I think it is a problem of national image.

    I agree that the line taken by Torry is a good one, but the real problems of the Ratzinger reporting are missed IMO. ‘God’s rottweiler’ was a fair quote from an earlier source (otherwise, the fact it was Camilla’s epithet would not exactly save it!). ‘Papa Ratzi’ I don’t even think was meant the way some people took it. But the whole ‘Hitler youth’ line was misinformed – you could tell the British journalists hadn’t been talking to German journalists or informed sources, and German sources are far from uncritical. They could have reported on a few much more important criticisms if that was what they wanted to do.

    The style of the Spiegel must have got more modern over the years, but I remember it as always having this style, or rather, I can’t remember reading the interviews before about 1985, so I can’t swear to those.

    I think one of the British media said Ratzinger got his beach towel on the papal chair first!

  3. Hm, either I’m missing something or you are.

    I don’t know it for sure, but I think the “An English(wo)man in Berlin” is a play on Sting’s “An Englishman in New York”. Ok, you can argue about the “English(wo)man”, but using a correct term obviously wouldn’t have worked.

    And what’s wrong with “intern”? While it might be of American origin I think it has made its way into general usage in the UK as well. At least that’s what we call them here as well (admittedly in an American company, but most here are still Brits).

  4. If a Sting-related joke was intended, then not much sensible thought could have been put into it: why would anyone expect a UK national (1) to expect a bad pun in a job ad, and (2) to recover the same cognitive links as _might_ be expected by a German when hearing the word ‘Englishman’. If true, this would appear to indicate even more how they need to get a UK national in!

    Anyway, wouldn’t you say that ‘(wo)man’ looks like a strange compromise that a native speaker would be unlikely to make in this kind of context? I’d expect ‘person’, ‘man or woman’ or ‘candidate’, for instance. Their solution smacks of someone looking for a direct equivalent to ‘-Innen’, in my mind.

    And yes, in terms of ‘intern’: while it’s true that people are far from consistent in their language usage, I also believe that most professional publications aim for some kind of consistency, if only because it makes them look more professional – and it helps them to avoid unnecessary criticism. I think most people in the UK would still consider ‘intern’ to be very American. Knowledge of the word was possibly even promoted with the whole Monica Lewinsky affair! I think most people in the UK would still expect to see in a job ad something like ‘trainee’ or ‘graduate position’ (depending on the level of the position).

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