German English

April 27, 2012

Above are a few examples of “mistakes” Germans do when they speak English. I find it so sweet! Knowing the German language it makes total sense why they do it because it’s directly translated from the German grammar. AND this has made me very curious of what kinds of “mistakes” Swedes do, please feel free to share in the comment field if you have an example of Swedish English. I want to learn!

This post is written with love with no intentions to offend or make fun of anyone.
If I get a few examples of Swedish English I will make a list like this of them too.

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  • Reply Jodi Anderson April 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Hi, Sandra.

    I proofed the final translation for Roots Magazine's Deus Ex English edition. The most common mistake that I corrected was that the translator would start a new sentence whenever they encountered the word "because".

    So, instead of, "I went to the store because I was out of food," it would be, "I went to the store. Because I was out of food."

    I have noticed this on your blog though. 🙂

    • Reply Jodi Anderson April 28, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      *This was supposed to say that I have NOT noticed this on your blog. Some proofreader I am!

    • Reply sandrajuto_6360gn April 30, 2012 at 10:44 am

      hahaha! oh yes i was wondering if you missed a NOT or not 🙂

  • Reply mjb April 27, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I grew up in Minnesota (where there are many Germans and Swedes by heritage), and it's very common for people to ask "do you want to come with?" I was taught that it was just bad grammar, until I learned that it's actually related to the German grammar which would end with mit.

  • Reply Orangeplaty April 27, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Ja, das stimmt.;) Ich würde von den oben genannten den zweiten Fehler sicherlich machen … "let me invite your for a drink" … klingt doch total logisch.:)

  • Reply the Blue Rabbit House. April 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I speak Dutch, so the difference between Dutch and German is that big. And I know the direct translating is quite a bad habit. I really like this post!

  • Reply dianne tanner // icefloe April 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I work with German girls and everytime they say things like this I want to squeeze them, its adorable. I love things like this, its what makes us all different and amazing. x

  • Reply mette / ungt blod April 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    @mjb -we Danes make the 'come with' mistake all the time too – it is a direct translation of 'Vil du være med'
    And I often see swedes write: "I have been doing this since 3 years" instead of "for 3 years"

    It can be quite painful to hear your own countrymen speak English because you know you will make some of the same mistakes.

  • Reply Vanessa April 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    My mum is german and this makes me think of her! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Megan April 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    There is, in fact such a mistake in your blog post LOL. You would ask, "What kind of mistakes do Swedes make?", not what kind of mistakes do Swedes do?".

    • Reply sandrajuto_6360gn April 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      haha!! thank you, i love to be corrected!

    • Reply Magali April 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      Aren't mistakes made not done? (honest question, because I'm Indian & I would have said made too)

    • Reply Shilo May 8, 2012 at 1:43 am

      I'm American and Monolingual in English and I definitely would say mistakes I make, not do. Do sounds really odd to me.

    • Reply Shilo May 8, 2012 at 1:45 am

      I'm an American English speaker and to me, mistakes are made. thus, one would make it.
      I've never heard mistakes done. Do sounds really odd to me.

  • Reply kikare April 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Many Swedes say "I'll learn you" when they mean "I'll teach you" 🙂

  • Reply máni April 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    hahahaha! what a brilliant post! germans also say card instead of map and card instead of menu all the time!!

  • Reply Amielle April 27, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Awww. I find this very sweet and endearing and something I'll have to keep in mind. 🙂

  • Reply Jenna April 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    sandra, i love this post – i love quirky language things like this! i also love that when you learn a little bit of the language, you understand why people make the mistakes they do – for example in english there is "to do" and "to make" when in a lot of languages, that verb is just combined into one, so in english, it's hard to know which verb to use! i've also found that swedes sometimes have problems with subject/verb agreement, for example, "he like" instead of "he likes" because the verbs don't need to be conjugated in swedish. but also i think swedes speak such good english with amazing accents.

    finns make mistakes with definite and indefinite articles a and the because there are none in finnish, there is also no gender, so sometimes finns call someone "him" when they mean "her" – oops!

  • Reply Lisa April 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Saying, "I go to the store" instead of "I'm going to the store". The Dutch do it, too.

  • Reply Makiko Hastings April 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    How intriguing! language is a real interesting (and difficult) stuff… I am Japanese living in UK, so I still make mistakes like the above sometime. Even American English is so different to English here and they do misunderstand each other! (quite funny and rather proud when I could recoganise that moment!) Love to you x m

  • Reply stjaerna April 27, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Mein Schwager (naja, fast) ist als Deutscher nach Schweden ausgewandert. Er macht mittlerweile Fehler im Deutschen, die aus der direkten Übersetzung aus dem Schwedischen stammen: "Ich gehe zum Hafen" statt "Ich gehe zum Meer", Lax statt Lachs. Mehr fällt mir grad nicht ein, aber es sind ein paar. Ich bin allerdings sehr verliebt in die schwedische Sprache : )

  • Reply anabela / fieldguided April 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    The first language I grew up speaking was Portuguese and so for years my brother and I would ask what was "giving" on television without realizing our mistake — and I live in Canada!

    • Reply Macu April 30, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      I'm portuguese…
      So, I totally understand what you're saying… 😉

    • Reply Anna May 2, 2012 at 8:44 am

      Its the same in German 🙂

  • Reply Christina April 28, 2012 at 6:32 am

    I have many examples of German French : I am French teacher for Swiss Germans !
    The funniest : they say "je vais chier" (I'll shit) to say "je vais skier" (I'm going skiing) !!
    This is adorable because so innocent…

  • Reply schorlemädchen April 28, 2012 at 10:26 am

    hahahaha, i love this post. We also say, we buy A bread 🙂 or have informations for you 🙂 kram

  • Reply la casita April 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I get confused with factory and fabric too in Italian factory is fabrica or fabbrica while factory sounds lime fattoria which means farm! After 12 years in UK my English is embarassing but I don't really mind anymore, after all I speak and understand 4 languages and that's enough for my little brain! 😀 Lovely post Sandra.

  • Reply sarapirat April 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    i like to translate swedish proverbs into english. cause it sounds so funny!
    like 'now you have planted your last potato'
    and 'oups, that was a frog'
    'no danger on the roof'
    'she knows where to place the cupboard'
    etc etc etc
    used to have plenty of those swedish english thingies, but can't think of any right now,
    great post!

  • Reply kathi April 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Swedish people often say things like "Are you still reading psychology?" when they actually mean studying and "we'll fix this" (vi fixar det) when they mean "we'll take care of it". I am German, but since I am going to Sweden pretty often, I think I am slowly starting to take over some Swedish English without recognizing the wrong expressions any longer…

  • Reply Sian April 28, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    I'm English, living in Sweden, and I love the way things translate. I guess we all do it in every language – I'm sure my Swedish sounds funny a lot of the time! My favourite one here is how they say 'shall we take a beer?' because it's a direct translation. We wouldn't say we'd 'take' a drink, we'd 'have' a drink. One thing that also strikes me is that the power of swear words are lost in translation – you often see/hear quite explicit English swear words at times/in places that would be considered inappropriate elsewhere, because they just don't have the same power, or they lose their meaning.

    • Reply sandrajuto_6360gn April 30, 2012 at 10:52 am

      that is so true, about the power of swear words, and happens to me pretty often when i speak german.
      oh that "take a beer" thing has always confused me even in swedish 🙂

  • Reply Becky April 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    This is great. I love it when things aren't translated quite right, it always sounds much more interesting than if it had been said the correct way!

  • Reply mia April 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    We have some Swedish friends who say their English isn't very good but they speak better English than many British people we know. Here in the UK we are generally very lazy or unconfident about learning other languages.
    German is a more direct and technical language where as English is more abstract with many more words to describe one thing. I have a German friend who says if she wants to discuss a film or a book it is much easier to do it in English.
    Language certainly is an interesting topic!!

  • Reply Jule April 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    When I was in school, I had a pen pal (I'm sure, the tenses are all wrong, but I will never get this!) in Spain. As I did'nt speak Spanish at this time, we wrote in English. When I received the first letter, it was really hard to figure out what he wrote… As they doesn't use personal pronouns in Spanish he didn't used it in his English sentences neither ^^ The problem is, that in Spain the verbs are conjugated corresponding to the personal pronouns, different to the English language where only the third person singular is conjugated different. So i could rather guess, what he tried to say 🙂

  • Reply Mara April 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    I don't know about Swedish, but a Turkish friend of mine always says he saw a dream (instead of had a dream). I know exactly what he means, but I agree with Becky – the difference is lovely and far more interesting.

  • Reply Anonymous April 30, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Sandra, I was just thinking if your sentence "I find it so sweet!" is an expression an English native speaker would use or if it's rather a direct translation of the German "Ich finde das so süß". Can any of you English speaking people let us know if you would use that expression or if you would rather say "That's so sweet"?

    Your post sounds like English is the "non plus ultra" language, while in German, for instance, the expression "this makes total sense" doesn't make any sense at all. There is nothing that can "make" sense in German, but things "have" sense. It's funny, though, that in German we have adapted the direct English translation and we do say "Das macht (keinen) Sinn", while the correct expression would be "Das hat (keinen) Sinn" 🙂

    Apart from that I'm not sure if there is something like "total sense". Either there is sense or there isn't. It's like with "pregnant". Either I'm pregnant or I'm not, but I can't be "a little bit pregnant" or "totally pregnant" 😀


    • Reply Fiona May 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm

      Matilda (great name- same as my daughter!), as an Australian English speaker I would usually say 'that's so sweet'. You do hear people say 'I find it so sweet' but it is always the beginning of a sentence and followed by 'when', such as 'I find it so sweet when my baby looks at me like that'. Having said that, Sandra saying 'I find it so sweet' does not sound wrong just not usual.

  • Reply Macu April 30, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    This is very interesting! The way we use our language and not just the language itself have many differences. There are also expressions and words without translation… For example: I can't say "saudade" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudade) in English… 🙂

  • Reply Simone May 1, 2012 at 5:00 am

    I have a German friend who speaks English wonderfully, but I have noticed a few subtle differences in the way he says some things that I find so endearing. For one, he uses the word "perhaps" so often–I'm American and I hardly ever use it in conversation but he uses it very casually, in place of "maybe" ("Perhaps we should leave soon"). He also asks if things are "forbidden," which sounds very weird since there is something so strict and almost frightening about the use of that word in American English! Like, he'll say, "Is it forbidden to smoke here?" instead of "Can I smoke here?" or "Is it okay to smoke here?" I'd find myself saying something like, "Well, it's not *forbidden*…but you probably shouldn't." And he also uses the word "already" a lot, and places it before the subject and verb in a sentence: "Already I am tired," whereas I would say, "I'm already tired," "I'm tired already," or simply "I'm tired." This is such an interesting post (and the comments too!)–I love thinking about this stuff!

    I also want to say that I just discovered your blog, Sandra, and I think it's absolutely marvelous. Hello, and thank you for making something so great!

  • Reply banana meet-cute May 1, 2012 at 5:23 am

    One of my best friends is Swedish and her english is perfect! She did, however tell me about a famous Swedish joke about Fingal Olsson? She said when it aired on television it caused a sensation because it was so hilarious, and she could remember falling down laughing the first time she heard it. Then, of course when she told me the joke I didn't get it at all!

    Sorry – this is a pretty poor anecdote without the actual joke, but I can't even remember what it was now!

  • Reply Naomi May 1, 2012 at 7:15 am

    This is so cute!! I'm curious to know what some English German would be, in contrast…

  • Reply outi May 1, 2012 at 7:59 am

    my love one speaks swiss german as mother language, and together we speak mixed german-english-finnish-something. it´s a quite mess sometimes;) in my head i often mix swedish and german words and phrases together, somehow they often are so close to each others, but the meanings can be something totally different. this also makes funny misunderstandings.. Like the word snäll in swedish and schnell auf Deutch. these too i still sometimes mix;)

  • Reply planktonfisher May 1, 2012 at 11:50 am

    oh, i make all those mistakes. i actually didn´t know that those are mistakes. so i think, i am an inherent sweet german girl!

  • Reply Jennifer May 6, 2012 at 9:08 am

    This is why listening to a native speaker of one language speak your language helps so much to learn *their* language. If that makes any sense… I'd love to see a list of mistakes English speakers make in German – just so I feel I have some company! 🙂

  • Reply www.finelittleday.com May 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Kul tycker jag, med såna här språklektioner 🙂

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