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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Seven English words Germans get delightfully wrong

As much as English-speakers might feel insecure about their Deutsch skills when faced with Germans' comparatively widespread grasp of English, Germans themselves often mess up English - in some pretty hilarious ways.

Seven English words Germans get delightfully wrong
Photo: DPA.

The mutual exchange of the German and English languages have led to such great developments as Anglos saying Doppelgänger or Wanderlust – and of course the wonder of Denglisch.

READ ALSO: Could Denglisch one day kill of English?

But there are some English words that Germans have adopted into their vernacular – and then proceeded to mutate their meanings beyond recognition.

The Local brings you some of these often absurd mix-ups.

1. Bodybag

Photos: CJ Baker / Flickr Creative Commons. Wikimedia Commons.

What to English-speakers means the sack in which one sticks a corpse is actually to Germans something entirely different.

Google Bodybag in Germany and police might not find your search history suspicious at all, thinking you were just looking for a hip new messenger bag, rather than finding somewhere to stash your latest victim.

2. Public Viewing

Photos: Templar52 / Wikimedia Commons. AxelHH / Wikimedia Commons.

Another quite grim misuse of English is the term Public Viewing.

When grandmother dies in the English-speaking world, you might be invited to her public viewing to say your last goodbyes before she’s buried.

But in Germany, getting an invitation to a Public Viewing means donning more colourful attire than black. The term actually refers to a public broadcast of a sports match or other big event.

3. Shitstorm

Photos: Screengrab from Bild. Christopher Warren / Flickr Creative Commons.

True, at times “shitstorm” may be the only apt way to describe a horribly messed up or controversial situation in English. But while the word fits well in banter among friends, it’s certainly not a word to use in polite conversation or in any formal setting.

That’s not the case in Germany. Shitstorm is a favourite phrase among mainstream, daytime news broadcasters, as well as tabloids like Bild and even the nation’s most respected publications like Der Spiegel.

The word was even dubbed the “best English gift to the German language” in 2012 as the Anglicism of the Year by a group of language experts.

4. Streetworkers

Photos: Tomas Castelazo / Wikimedia Commons. DPA.

In English, if someone is “working the streets”, they are certainly doing social outreach of some sort, but probably not what Germans have in mind. You might also understandably think the term refers to people who perform road repairs.

But a Streetworker in Germany is a social worker who conducts outreach programmes with people who otherwise may not receive health services, such as homeless people, drug addicts or youth members of gangs.

While in English the phrase “street worker” could also sometimes refer to social workers, English-speakers may more commonly assume the term refers to prostitutes, especially since it sounds a lot like “streetwalker”.

5. Castingshow

Oliver Geissen presents talent show Deutschland sucht den Superstar. Photo: DPA.

This Anglicism actually does make literal sense, though it may still be a head-scratcher for native English speakers.

In German, a Castingshow is any sort of talent show where people audition and compete as singers, dancers, models or otherwise – like American Idol or Next Top Model.

English-speakers would tend to call these kinds of programmes reality shows, but what’s the point in correcting Germans now?

6. Smoking

Photos: DPA.

Germans are known for their excessively long words, but sometimes – surprisingly – they will take English words and simplify them into something that doesn’t quite make sense to Anglos.

That’s apparently how the German word Smoking came to be, meaning a tuxedo or formal dinner jacket, not the act of puffing on a cigarette.

DON’T MISS: Ten of the longest words in German

The English term “smoking jacket” actually refers to jackets worn while smoking tobacco, though these garments were traditionally made from velvet or silk.

7. Beamer

Photos: DPA.

If a German friend starts bragging about their nice new Beamer, don’t get too excited for them – it’s not a brand new BMW.

The word actually means projector in German and is derived from the English word beam, as in beam of light.

So when said friend invites you over to check out the Beamer, bringing popcorn is perhaps more advisable than getting ready for a joyride along the Autobahn.

For all The Local’s guides to learning German CLICK HERE

 

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LEARNING GERMAN

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

Once you've learned the basics of German, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for German learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

STARTING OUT

Coffee Break German

Coffee Break German aims to take you through the basics of German in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where German native Thomas teaches Mark Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark, begins at the same level as you. He is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break German Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes

German Pod 101

German Pod 101 aims to teach you all about the German language, from the basics in conversations and comprehension to the intricacies of German culture. German Pod 101 offers various levels for your German learning and starts with Absolute Beginner.

The hosts are made up of one German native and one American expat living in Germany, in order to provide you with true authentic language, but also explanations about the comparisons and contrasts with English. This podcast will, hopefully, get you speaking German from day one.

Their website offers more information and the option to create an account to access more learning materials.

Learn German by Podcast

This is a great podcast if you don’t have any previous knowledge of German. The hosts guide you through a series of scenarios in each episode and introduce you to new vocabulary based on the role-plays. Within just a few episodes, you will learn how to talk about your family, order something in a restaurant and discuss evening plans. Each phrase is uttered clearly and repeated several times, along with translations.

READ ALSO:

Learn German by Podcast provides the podcasts for free but any accompanying lesson guides must be purchased from their website. These guides include episode transcripts and some grammar tips. 

DEVELOPING YOUR GERMAN

Easy German

This podcast takes the form of a casual conversation between hosts Manuel and Cari, who chat in a fairly free-form manner about aspects of their daily lives. Sometimes they invite guests onto the podcast, and they often talk about issues particularly interesting to expats, such as: “How do Germans see themselves?”. Targeted at young adults, the podcasters bring out a new episode very three or four days.

News in Slow German

This is a fantastic podcast to improve your German listening skills. What’s more, it helps you stay informed about the news in several different levels of fluency.

The speakers are extremely clear and aim to make the podcast enjoyable to listen to. For the first part of each episode the hosts talk about a current big news story, then the second part usually features a socially relevant topic. 

A new episode comes out once a week and subscriptions are available which unlock new learning tools.

SBS German

This podcast is somewhat interesting as it is run by an Australian broadcaster for the German-speaking community down under. Perhaps because ethnic Germans in Australia have become somewhat rusty in their mother tongue, the language is relatively simple but still has a completely natural feel.

There is a lot of news here, with regular pieces on German current affairs but also quite a bit of content looking at what ties Germany and Australia together. This lies somewhere between intermediate and advanced.

A woman puts on headphones in Gadebusch, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: dpa | Jens Büttner

PERFECTING YOUR GERMAN

Auf Deutsche gesagt

This is another great podcast for people who have a high level of German. The host, Robin Meinert, talks in a completely natural way but still manages to keep it clear and comprehensible.

This podcast also explores a whole range of topics that are interesting to internationals in Germany, such as a recent episode on whether the band Rammstein are xenophobic. In other words, the podcast doesn’t just help you learn the language, it also gives you really good insights into what Germans think about a wide range of topics.

Sozusagen

Bayern 2 present their podcast Sozusagen! for all those who are interested in the German language. This isn’t specifically directed at language learners and is likely to be just as interesting to Germans and foreigners because it talks about changes in the language like the debate over gender-sensitive nouns. Each episode explores a different linguistic question, from a discussion on German dialects to an analysis of political linguistics in Germany.

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