Here’s how German messes up your English

1. Putting verbs at the end of the sentence

In German the main verb often goes at the end of the sentence. There isn’t enough time in the world to explain German grammatical rules but chances are, German has started messing up the grammar of your English sentences too.

You might have started subconsciously back loading sentences with verbs and greedily withholding them until right at the end of your point. Before you know it, you sound like Yoda.

2. Saying ‘or’?

Putting “oder” (or) at the end of a sentence is common throughout Germany. It’s a way of asking whether the other person agrees with you. The best English equivalent would be “right?”, so “Trump is all just a bad dream, right?” or “Trump ist nur ein Albtraum, oder?”.

But if you’ve been speaking a lot of German recently, you might notice the literal translation of oder creeping into your English.

Don’t blame your colleagues for their bemused expressions when you walk into the office and shake the rain off your umbrella, only to exclaim, “Terrible weather, or?”

3. J’s and Y’s

This is yet another problem with pronunciation. The German J is pronounced the same way as the English Y. Perhaps it took you a while to realize that the Julia you met in Germany doesn’t have quite so exotic a name as you imagined, and actually spells her name the same way as the Julia you know from home (not Yulia).

So when you ring up someone in the English-speaking world whose name begins with a J, and German is playing with your English skills that day, they may not recognize the person you’re after.

4. Conflating your V’s and F’s

A while back you learnt the golden rule of German pronunciation. You can forget your previous notions of what a W was meant to sound like. W now sounds like the English V sound, and the German V sounds like the English F.

Lately, you’re holding onto that rule so hard that it’s starting to infect your English speech. Before you know it, you’re asking where the facuum cleaner is, your children are telling you what they learnt about the fikings at school today and you’re dressing up as a fampire for Halloween.

5. Mixing up your ei’s and ie’s

You may be staring at a word document, wondering why the spellcheck has decided to highlight the words ‘recieve’ and ‘decieve’, which you’re sure are spelt right. In fact, you haven’t gone insane. You’ve just been focusing too hard on German pronunciation.

The way that the ‘ei’ in English words like receive and deceive sounds, is the same as the ‘ie’ sounds in German. You’ve been writing out an English word in phonetic German and that’s why English spellcheck doesn’t like you. All very complicated.

6. Getting your numbers the wrong way round

Asking your local greengrocer for “five and twenty” potatoes may get you an odd stare, but this could happen if you spend a little too much time learning your German times tables.

In German, once you get past ten, the rightmost digit comes before the first. Twenty-one in English is one and twenty in German. This may sound odd to English speakers, but it is common in other languages, such as Arabic.

The only time you’re likely to use the German numbering system is if you’re reading an old nursery rhyme to your children, for example Sing a Song of Sixpence’s “four and twenty blackbirds” baked into a pie.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: