This comic is great. The first time I heard someone refer to their body-bag, ever so casually, I definitely knew this was another example of Denglisch that doesn’t quite translate as well as some of the others. I was also surprised the first time my students asked me if I had a Beamer for that day’s lecture. I mean, I would love a luxury car sure but why would I bring it to class?


I also enjoy these other expressions and phrases from Germans butchering English:

“Make party”
(Always a classic)

“Is it fine for you?”

(when used such as “The instructions are on the backside”)

“You become your money”
(“You earn a salary”)

“Do (some) sport(s)”
(“I go to the gym” not so much a thing)

“I stand up in the morning…”
(“I wake up at…”)

(this kills me because I keep thinking of the hunter from Looney Tunes)

“It is due until Friday”
(BY Friday. This is very difficult to teach)

“Please alight in the direction of travel”
(Every train system ever)

(I can’t even spell how the word “clothes” sounds here)

“Actual” vs “Current” or “Up to date”
(“Please aktualize the document.”)

“Buildings are built with semen”
(Insert appropriately blank face here: “You mean cement. Cement was the word you are looking for.”)

“The train will terminate here”

“Driving with the bike”
(All vehicles are driven, no riding, no exceptions, including ergs)

(but have you tried saying Eichhörnchen?)


“Funny” vs “fun”

The time the dermatologist told me I have very fat skin (oily) ( 😦 )


But then again, here are some things I have butchered in German:

What I Said What I Meant
“I am very homosexual today” “It’s really humid today”
“I would like the morning wood to go please” “I would like a latte to go please”
“Slice the baby chickens slowly and all together with great force” “Cut the cake slowly and controlled, together” (a rowing drill)
“I am horny” (only did it once, immediately corrected myself because I knew better) “I am hot” (temperature-wise)
“I am horny” (yeaahhh…I’ve done it more than once) “I am so awesome”
“Give me to the dog” “Please may I pet your dog?”
Also me: I can’t English anymore either.

It’s really the Umlaut’s fault. Missing the umlaut causes great confusion, until your German counterpart goes “Oh! You obviously mean (puckers lips and makes literally an identical sound to the one you just made, but can’t hear the difference, because this is a totally made up letter).”

The number of times I’ve tried to say Römertopf and I know, Iknow, I’m not getting it right but it sounds so right to me, is quite high. I’m going to get it, it’s going to happen one day. But for now I contort my face to one resembling someone experiencing a stroke and I speak EXTRA LOUD because when dealing with language barriers, it’s important to yell one’s message across, according to all American tourists I’ve experienced in the wild (just kidding I’ve caught myself doing this as well).

Picture these donuts. Make your mouth into a donut. Pinch it shut with your fingers. Make a sound. That is an Umlaut.
What is the point

The point is that if you are living or traveling in a country for an extended period of time, which has a different language than your own, it’s important to learn many go-to phrases in that language, and be able to laugh at yourself when it immediately goes wrong, and you’ve accidentally just sold your husband for a goat.

I kid. Certainly there are emergency situations when one wants to be explicit and clear, but for everyday life it’s important to experiment and embrace learning the new language. There is so much to life one would miss by not trying to understand the people around them. One of the loneliest parts of getting used to living abroad is walking down a street full of people, and completely missing out on the small talk of life. Whether it’s someone complaining to a friend about a bad date, or parents chastising children, or teens laughing together over something in school, it’s hard to be surrounded by noise that you know is meaningful communication, but you don’t understand.

If you are feeling those feels, I recommend getting a translator, and using it everywhere. Translate advertising signs in windows. Translate the entire menu. Type in a word you think you overheard on the bus and see if you can get the gist of what they were saying. Then, remember two or three of those new words each time you do it. This is how I learned “so wie so” and “gar nichts” and “krass” which are not phrases I think one would learn in German class, because they’re sort of local dialect. I also recommend Duolingo, for those basic words one needs to know.

Probably not going to show up in Duolingo

If anyone else has experienced this kind of loneliness or a funny story about mis-translations I’d love to hear it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s