Realizing things in German

Overwhelmed by her victory in the Eurovision song contest last night, Germany’s Lena Meyer-Landrut was at a loss for words. She had clearly not yet come to grips with her win, or, as the German announcer covering the event put it: “Sie hat ihren Sieg noch nicht realisiert.” Lena herself admitted as much later, stating: “Ich hab’ das alles noch gar nicht richtig realisiert.” Strictly speaking, however, “realisieren” in German means “to bring about; to concretize” (as in, “Das Projekt wurde realisiert“). The meaning “to grasp or understand clearly” is a calque, the result of recent infiltration by the English language. Sadly, many – if not most – Germans are unaware of the questionable nature of “realisieren” in this context. Thus, the dilution of German by the Weltsprache continues apace.

3 thoughts on “Realizing things in German”

  1. I am fascinated by your thought-provoking dissection of both languages. Your articles are inspiring me to dig deeper into the meanings of words I haven´t really thought about, for instance the German verb “realisieren”:
    In my Duden, the second definition says: (in einem Prozeß der Bewußtmachung) erkennen, einsehen, begreifen
    und die passenden Synonyme dazu wären: gewahr werden, innewerden; (umgangssprachlich) u.a. blicken, kapieren.
    Hatte Lena vielleicht doch recht?

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  2. On second thought, maybe this is a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Consistent wrong use can be “rewarded” with a Duden entry.

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    1. I agree. If “realisieren” can now be used legitimately in the sense of “to recognize” in German, I think this is attributable to infiltration by English.

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