Unstoppable March of English Threatens €S

I recently surfed over to my favorite German commentary newspaper, Die Zeit – and what did I see? An article entitled The Disaggregation Temptation – and that’s not a translation from German, that was the article’s title, which appeared (and still appears, if you’re quick) on the Die Zeit homepage together with a blurb in English. (Look for the American flag.) And the author’s by-line that follows is even “By Constanze Stelzenmüller for ZEIT.de” (my emphasis).

In short, Die Zeit is going English on us! It’s just a start for now – that’s certainly the only article in English to be found on that homepage. But if this catches on, who will love the EuroSavant anymore? Plus there’s all the Sturm and Drang that was involved in my learning this language in the first place: wasted once German on-line newspapers start coming out in the Queen’s English and then, as the other Schuh drops, all of Schiller, Goethe, and Kleist follow. (Or has it already been translated? All of it?)

On the brink of panicking, well before any settling-down to actually read Frau Stelzenmüller’s article, I tried to gauge the size of the threat.

What determines whether a Die Zeit article comes out on-line in English? Well my friends, as far as I can tell the contagion is limited so far to Frau Stelzenmüller herself, who seems to have just started this gig: if you click through to her article you’ll then see links to the three other pieces she has produced, also in English of course, off to the right-hand side.

She has been assigned as a mainstay of the paper’s “USA” section, as would certainly seem apt. And she does write an entertaining article – now that you need no help from me, do go ahead and check out at least The Disaggregation Temptation. Her point, if you don’t mind me revealing it (this is not a horror short-story, after all, nor a mystery) is that recent explicit calls in American journals – she cites this one in particular, from the august Foreign Affairs – to start treating Europe more warily, and indeed to try to impede the process of European integration, are sadly misconstrued, that Europe can be a much better partner for America in the world if it is strong and united.

For all her ur-Germanic name, Frau Stelzenmüller has clearly spent quite some time in the States (and/or has a dynamite editor who has), for her standard of English would be envied by any American college senior and indeed, I suspect, many published writers. She even has a comfortable familiarity with the term “hissy fit,” as you’ll see, while at the same time offering what certainly seems to be a solidly European viewpoint. (Aimed at readers from across the “pond” – but how many of those are there, given the still-widespread impression that you won’t find any English on Die Zeit?) Wait, that’s right, we can’t really generalize about a “European” or even “EU” viewpoint coming from an organization with 25 varied members; let’s call hers not necessarily just a “German” but a “European continental great power” viewpoint, then, as I suspect that a French writer with such a sassy ability with the American tongue would likely produce something similar.

Anyway, go to it: I recommend it to you. But let’s just hope it’s not part of any larger trend, or I might just have to go back to spending my mornings and evenings with my model trains (whoops!).

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