Where there’s a will, there’s a way

One phrase that I am getting a lot of practice on at the moment is ich will – “I want” – as there are two advertising campaigns that use it. The first, which I noticed in a few places before I left for my trip to the US, concerns preventing the spread of STIs and AIDS. For example, these phrases appear on billboards and hoardings:

Ich will’s wild
Ich will’s ehrlich
Ich will’s unartig
Ich will’s gemütlich
Ich will’s reif
Ich will’s ernsthaft

Each item following the ich will shares how the person pictured is supposed to “want it” – “wild,” “straightforward,” “naughty,” untranslatable but perhaps “warm and cozy” or even “unhurried,” “adult/mature” (or more literally “ripe”), and “genuine” or “wholehearted.” The posters follow this up with the advice mach’s! aber mach’s mit! – “do it! but do it with [a condom]!” To which I follow up, “use ich will but protect yourself against using it to mean ‘I will’!”

The other set of adverts features young people and their career aspirations. The campaign is called Rock Your Life and, yes, I italicized it because the name of the campaign here in Germany is that English phrase. What is particularly lovely about this campaign, beyond teaching me some new German cultural icons, is that it couples ich will – a form of wollen “to want” – with the verb which it can so easily be confused by English speakers, werden – “to become” in the context of this campaign but also with the meaning “will” when used as an auxiliary verb.

For example, we see a young woman with the caption Ich will Judith Rakers werden – “I want to become Judith Rakers [a journalist and tv talking head]” – and in this one brief sentence can be reminded that werden is doing the work of “will” and will is doing the work of “want.” It’s visual, it’s catchy, it’s everywhere at the moment and I hope that German language learners out there come to love this campaign for being a special sort of grammar lesson! I don’t think I’d mind becoming Ms Rakers either…

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