Four German-English habits that may confuse you. Of course you don’t mean you can English. You know you speak English, naturally. And yes, the title question is contrived, but it still comes close to what some Germans will readily say in English – or what they think is English. This five-part series will help you decode Denglisch, that strange variation of English as spoken by many Germans. Your chances of encountering Denglisch are rising day by day. Major German companies have had activities outside Germany for decades, but now, more and more small-to-medium firms (Germany’s famous Mittelstand) are moving overseas and opening factories across the world. So who knows, you might soon become an employee of a supplier of a German company. Better bone up on the language, then.
Here’s a collection of English pecularities that Germans have been known to struggle with
• Don’t be startled by “you must” coming from a German. More likely than not, what he or she means is “I need you to..“ or even “could you please...“ Germans are fearsomely straight in their communication. Often, their message hits you like it’s doing 150 mph on Germany’s famously un-speed-limited autobahns. Don’t take it personally.
• Germans have a hard time distinguishing between “I like to“ and “I’d like to“. Most often, what they mean is the latter, not the former.
• Similarly, “do you like to [do something]?“ will probably be intended to mean “Would you like to [do something]?”
• The difference between “I love sailing“ and “I love to sail“ is too subtle for most Germans. But then, it is for some English-speakers, too.
This article is an adaptation of a German original published on this blog’s German pages. The German article was taken from “Das kleine 3x3 des Business English“, our new companion to English in an international professional setting for German natives. See our “Downloads“ section for English-language editions of our other communication companions.