I have learned German. Now, my English is a disaster!
Learning a language might sometimes become a long, challenging and very arduous journey
English is the third most-spoken native language in the world as well as the co-official language of the United Nations and the European Union. Since its birth, in the 12th century, the English language has evolved by meshing with different cultures such as Romans, Vikings and French through wars, invasions and conquers. English is much more than just a language. It is a melting pot of cultures.
English is a West Germanic Language, along with Dutch, Frisian and German. Despite those languages diverged in the course of time, some of them still preserve numerous similarities, like English and German. However, as every language learner should know, similarities between languages might be a double-edged sword when it comes to learning them.
In fact, if language similarities may be helpful to understand words, on the other side they can lead non-native speakers to confusion. In particular, during the switching phase.
Let’s now see in detail some of the most common cases of Denglish
Ending questions with “or”
To ask for confirmation, English people usually add to the question “isn’t it?” Germans add the word “oder”, which means „or“.
It can be misleading, or?
Verbs at the end of the sentence
In German, the conjugated verb comes always at the end of the sentence when it comes to a subordinate sentence. Therefore, always remember to put the verb after wenn (when), weil (before), just to make some examples.
Counting in German is no easy work. From 21 to 99 numbers form, German people count by switching digits and tens’ order. Hence, you might pronounce 25 “ Fünf und zwanzig”, “five twenty”.
Everything is super
Germans love to exclaim „super!“ every time they find something interesting and nice. Perhaps for its frequent use and its similar meaning to the English “super”, non-native learners might use it interchangeably. In this case, at least remember to pronounce it correctly! Another word you might hear is „prima“.
The Overuse of Na
German’s Na is of a very tricky one. This word has no real meaning and Germans use it to make exclamations stronger. Therefore, you might often hear sentences such as: Na gut, or Na also, Na und? almost everywhere.
Too many ALSO
German speakers use this term as an interjection, whether they are starting a sentence or just taking some time to reflect. We can consider the German “also” the equivalent of the English “so”. However, be careful with these two words. If Germans might understand you, English native speakers might feel a bit confused. Why would you start a sentence with “too”?
Und or and? Aber or but?
When it comes to pairing white socks, it is very easy to mix everything up. As well, confusing coordinated conjunctions between English and German can be easy. Especially after an intense German session, replacing a “but” with an “aber” might happen quickly and you will end up with sentences like: I am very happy for you UND your sister ABER you should be careful.
Like the English language, German presents numerous irregular verbs, as well. These verbs change their stem vowel in both past tense (Präteritum) and perfect tense (Perfekt). Let’s compare the verb “begin” and the verb “beginnen” for instance. As the verb “begin” would conjugate begin-began-begun, as well the verb “beginnen” would be: beginnt- began- hat begonnen. Language switching can be tricky.
And you, do you know any Denglish?
Denglish, which stands for Deutsch and English, is the term used by linguists to describe incorrect English spoken by German speakers as well as the use of English sentences by German speakers. “Das macht Sinn” for instance, is a calque from the English “this makes sense“ as well as “whatsappieren” and “to whatsapp”.
Photo: NDE CC0 creative commons