Skip to main content

Slipping up




Part 1: German to English
Learning a language is tough and mistakes are inevitable. And acceptable! Plus, when people make mistakes in the language they're learning it can teach you a lot about how to use their native language. That said, here are 4 common mistakes I’ve heard around me since I've been living in Germany. If you’ve been using any of them, never fear! I’ll tell you how to fix them. 

Hello together!
If you’ve been using this phrase to greet your English-speaking colleagues first thing in the morning or before a meeting, I’m sorry to say you’ve been making a mistake. German and English are similar in so many ways and, sometimes, directly translating from one to the other will yield good results. But this is not one of those times! 'Hello everyone' is what you’re looking for in this situation.

The same like…
Although ‘like’  can be similar in meaning to ‘the same’, we don’t combine them. So if, “I went to the same school like her” sounds fine to you, you’ve possibly been saying it wrong for a while. By this stage, I hope you’re racking your brains trying to figure out what the right word actually is.

Ok I’ll tell you…. “I went to the same school as her.” Whilst it may sound strange, it is indeed the correct version. (No, really.)

If I would …
If I would be a millionaire, I would buy a boat and sail around the world.” Actually, that’s not accurate, and neither is the grammar in that sentence. Conditional sentences are notoriously tricky (in any language, it seems!) and, to make it more confusing, many native English speakers have no problem with the example sentence above. But I do, my friends. It’s just not grammatical. When 'if I' and 'would' appear in a sentence, they should not be placed together. Swap the 'would be' for a 'was' (or 'were', if you’re traditional) and you’ve got a beautiful second conditional: “If I was / were a millionaire, I would buy a boat and sail around the world (or something less dangerous and more fun.).”

Persons
The only place I would expect to see this word (the plural version, mind) is in a lift. If you are a sign in a lift, 'persons' is what you will use to indicate maximum capacity. If you are not, in fact, a sign in a lift, the word you want is 'people' (as in “Today at work I said, ‘hello together’ and the other people in the room looked confused.”)

Yes, persons is a word, yes, it is grammatical, but no, we don’t use it, and that’s what counts.


From the article
tough     difficult
inevitable  when something is going to happen and you can't stop it
never fear    don't worry
yield      give
rack your brains     think very hard
whilst    while (here it means 'even though')
notoriously   famous for something bad








Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What's my level?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash A while ago, a prospective student announced, “I’ve learnt until the present perfect continuous, so I think my level is B1*.” This comment  struck me as interesting . Imagine all those hours of study, repetition and practice reduced to a grade determined by a single grammar point. It got me thinking how I felt about my German. What was my level? Let’s see, I’ve passed the B1 exam, so I’m B1. But that was almost a year ago. What does that make me now? B2? How can I really know?  Walking up the three  flights of stairs  to my classroom the other day, I wondered how exactly to say what I was doing in German. That got me thinking even more. I can use the past perfect, but I still can’t use the 1 st  conditional accurately ( though  it was in my B1 course book). I even learnt the second conditional back then. If I can't apply the rules now does that mean I’ve  slipped back  to A2? I ask because I’m listening to an audiobook  aimed at  

A case for cartoons

"Willst du die suchen gehen, Leo?" I called out to the kitchen walls. Two seconds later a disembodied voice from the tablet echoed my question. "I'm getting good at this," I thought with a smug smile. While I was up to my elbows in greasy suds , my 15-month-old sat enjoying his cartoon at the kitchen table. Having seen, or at least heard, each episode three times, I wasn't surprised I could anticipate the next line. This screen time is completely justifiable , by the way. I play the German version, so, thanks to Covid-19, it is currently one of the only sources of German my son is exposed to regularly. Also it, you know, provides some much needed quiet time.  But there's more to cartoons than meets the eye . They've turned out to be a helpful little study aid for me . In fact, I believe cartoons aimed at very small children can be great learning tools for adult learners. Here's why: the sentences are short and uncomplicated, the meaning is gener

Come again?

A man crossing the street approached to ask me a question. "Eshmm hummm gartz?" he said. "The podcasters in my ear grew fainter as I removed the earphone in preparation for when I'd ask him to repeat himself, inevitably.  Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash "Eshmm hummm gartz?" he said calmly. At least one of us had patience. With one hand on the buggy and the other straining to rein in my inquisitive dog, I was quickly losing mine. And now, to cap it all , I had to decode muffled gibberish . "I don't know. I think it's there." I motioned him to a doctor's surgery just behind me. I was taking a stab at a suitable reply and seemed to have hit the mark. I heard a "danke!" before I manoeuvred both dog and buggy around a tree and back onto the path. It was a cold morning and the lost stranger had his scarf covering half his face as a result. Or so I assume. It may have been a makeshift mask. Either way, the scenario reminded m