German, Language

Funny Things Brits Say in German

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about some of the best and funniest things I’ve heard Germans say in English. You can read them here if you want: Funny Things Germans Say In English. To be fair, I make my fair share of mistakes in German too – the general ones I already wrote about in another blog post: Mistakes I Still Make in German. But, as I said, these were very general things, such as not knowing the articles for brand names, and getting mixed up with prepositions and their cases.

Now I thought it would be a good idea, after the list has slowly piled up, of daft things I, as a Brit (well, half Brit half German, which I don’t think makes things any better), say in German. It’s probably ideal if you can speak German to get the true gist of what is so tricky about the damn stupid things I say, but I’ll try my best to translate them for non-German speakers – which may be fun enough in itself seeing only the English translations and wondering how on earth I managed to make the mistakes in the first place!

So, here goes nothing: funny things Brits (i.e. actually just yours truly) say in German…



The phrase for ‘to faint’

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I did write about this in the blog post linked above. But as the story comes up again and again when I talk about idiotic things I say in German, it really has to make an appearance here too!

What I wanted to say:
“Ihr ist vor den Augen schwarz geworden.”
(She fainted.)

What I said:
“Sie ist schwarz geworden.”
(She turned black.)

Michael Jackson style, but the other way round…? Thankfully it was Tim I said it to. He still gave me a funny look though. Whoops.



Splashing out the cash in Italy

There are often words in German that are so similar that I still get them mixed up to this day (I had to quickly check the German of these two words coming up to make sure I got them the right way round). This happened when I went to Italy a few years back. Tim and I sat excitedly on the train on the way to Italy and, looking out the window at the glorious sunshine…

What I wanted to say:
“Ich kaufe mir einen Hut, wenn wir da sind.”
(I’m gonna buy a hat when we get there.)

What I said:
“Ich kaufe mir eine Hütte, wenn wir da sind.”
(I’m gonna buy a little cottage when we get there.)

Look how similar those damn words are! And the ü/u doesn’t mean anything to me because I still sometimes have problems with the difference when speaking to this day…

Anyway, unfortunately, I did not have enough money to buy a little cottage. But I did get a hat!

Definitely not a little cottage or hut.



What do you play squash with?

This was a classic English error when speaking German, when you use a word that is similar to a word in your mother tongue but it means a completely different thing. They’re called false friends, and some of the classic false friends you learn in German are words such as sensible (meaning sensitive, not sensible) and Chef (meaning boss, not chef). This happened actually by text, as I text a friend about meeting up for squash:

What I wanted to say:
“Ich habe die Schläger schon.”
(I’ve already got the rackets.)

What I said:
“Ich habe die Raketen schon.”
(I’ve already got the rockets.)

Rockets in the sense of a literal rocket that goes into space. Or certain types of fireworks. Either way, not so ideal for playing squash… (I also just noticed it’s just one letter change in English, too. Languages can be hard!)



‘Allotment’ in German

I’ve only recently learnt the word for an allotment in German, which is my excuse for getting this wrong.

What I wanted to say:
“Ja, ich glaube, ich brauche einen Schrebergarten.”
(Yeah, I think I need an allotment.)

What I said:
“Ja, ich glaube, ich brauche einen Strebergarten.”
(Yeah, I think I need a geek garden.)

The German word I said is as nonsensical as the English. A geek garden. What even is that? Whatever it is, I said I think I needed one. But then again, a geek garden in terms of video games and stuff? Maybe it would work after all…



Who brings eggs at Easter?

Fitting to the day today, I got excited when I received a Lindt chocolate bunny. My absolute favourite chocolate! (Apart from Terry’s Chocolate Orange maybe… but I never considered it and now I don’t know argh!). Anyway, I can’t remember the full context of the conversation and only really remember the exact word that I said wrong, but it was something like:

What I wanted to say:
“Danke für das Osterhäschen!”
(Thanks for the Easter bunny!)

What I said:
“Danke für das Osterhähnchen!”
(Thanks for the Easter chicken!)

I mean to be fair why does a bunny bring eggs anyway when a chicken clearly lays eggs? (Cue lots of loud laughing in the underground because it was a fairly obvious mistake that they seemed to enjoy…)

Definitely a rabbit. Though a chicken makes so much more sense with the eggs…



When accusing somebody of cheating backfires…

Best till last! I’m surprised I haven’t actually already written about this one in another post, but after a search on my blog I can’t find anything about it. So, I apologise if you have already read about this one, but, to be fair, it deserves the attention. So my ultimate faux pas took place during a card game:

What I wanted to say:
“Du schummelst!”
(You’re cheating!)

What I said:
“Du schimmelst!”
(You’re going mouldy!)

One letter. One damn letter and the meaning is changed to going mouldy. It resulted in everyone at the table laughing, to which I temporarily thought everybody was in on the cheating. Thankfully, it was cleared up quickly. And the accusee was, in fact, not cheating. I was just rubbish at the game!



Have you ever said anything daft in another language? Or do ever heard somebody say something ridiculous in your own language? Would be interesting (and a good laugh) to hear!

3 thoughts on “Funny Things Brits Say in German”

  1. Hi from your favorite American! When I was on my high school year abroad, I had a cold and some in my host family asked how I was doing and I wanted to say “I have to blow my nose” (ich muss Mir die nase putzen” ….. And I said “ich muss meine nase blasen” and my entire host family LOST IT and I had no idea why. It was because they were picturing a nose trombone or something…. XD

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