If you’re a native German speaker learning English, most of the time you should count yourself lucky: there is a lot of overlap between the German and English vocabulary, meaning that a lot of words are almost exactly the same in both languages. Lucky you, right?

So why do I say ‘’most of the time’’? Well, unfortunately, sometimes the fact that English and German have so many words in common actually works against us – I’m talking about so-called ‘’false friends’’: words that look and/or sound the same or similar as a word in your native language, but has a completely different meaning! These tricksters are often the cause of confusing if not downright embarrassing situations.

To help you avoid these painful situations, here’s a list of the most common German-English false friends which we language trainers hear on a frequent basis. This list works both ways, whether you’re learning English or German!

 

  1. aktuell vs. actually

The English translation for aktuell is current/currently, not actually. And the German translation for actually is eigentlich, not aktuell.

 

  1. mobben vs. (to) mob

The German verb mobben means to bully a person. The German terms Pack and bedrängen can communicate best the English word mob (which is both a noun and a verb).

 

  1. konsequent vs. consequent

English teachers often find that, when German students say consequent in an English sentence, what they mean to say is consistent. The word consequent, on the other hand, translates best to the German adjective folgend.

 

  1. sensibel vs. sensible

If a German ever tells you that you are being too sensible, they probably mean to say you are being too sensitive. Sensibel can be used to describe something or someone that is sensitive or touchy. To be sensible, on the other hand, meaning to have good sense or reason, translates in German to vernünftig, klug or verständig.

Think about is like this: sensible relates to the head/brain, sensitive relates to the heart/emotions.

 

  1. blamieren vs. to blame

Blamieren is a German verb that means to disgrace or to embarrass oneself or someone else. To blame in the English language, however, means to find fault with or to hold someone responsible for something. The best German term for this is jemanden beschuldigen or verantwortlich machen (für).

 

  1. Chef vs. chef

Probably the most famous German-English pair of false friends out there, since there is zero difference in spelling or pronunciation! Not surprisingly, they are often confused.

Chef (note the capital letter) in German means boss, chief or head (e.g. of a company), but a chef in English is a cook in a restaurant (who manages a kitchen). This is, of course, a Koch/Köchin in German.

 

  1. spenden vs. to spend

Spenden in German means to donate (time or money), whereas the English verb to spend translates to ausgeben (money) or verbringen (time). Therefore, if someone tells you they spend a lot of money at the supermarket, they use it too buy food – they don’t give it away to charity! ?

 

  1. sympatisch vs. sympathetic

Last but not least, another infamous pair which puzzles German and English speakers alike – mostly because sympatisch is one of the most common Germans words which are impossible to translate into English.

While most dictionaries will tell you that sympathisch can be used to say likeable, congenial or friendly, these translations often don’t communicate the exact meaning of the word.

More importantly, the adjective sympathetic means something completely different to likeable or friendly. The best German translation would be mitfühlend or verständnisvoll – sympathetic is used to show that you understand how another person is feeling.

 

To make life a bit easier for you, here are all these false friends presented in a table:

English word: Looks/sounds like German word (= false friend):

 

What it really means in German:
actually aktuell eigentlich
mob (noun or verb) mobben pack / bedrängen
consequent Consequent folgend
sensible sensibel vernünftig / klug / verständig.

 

 

to blame blamieren beschuldigen
chef Chef Koch/Köchin
to spend spenden ausgeben (geld)
sympathetic sympatisch mitfühlend / verständnisvoll

 

To finish off this topic, be aware that this is just a small selection of a long list of German-English false friends. The main point to take away from this story is that, although two words may look and/or sound the same in both languages, the meaning can be vastly different! We hope this list will help you to avoid falling for the oh-so-many traps that the English and German vocabulary have to offer! ?

So you’ve applied for a new job and landed yourself an interview – fantastic, congratulations! For an hour or so you feel great, but then…panic strikes. How am I going to get through this??

Job interviews…we all have some sort of love-hate relationship with them, don’t we? After all, they may open the door to a new job, a new phase in our career, a fresh start! However, they can also be terrifying: in a very short amount of time, you have to convince a group of strangers that, out of all the people who have applied for the job, you are the one they’re looking for! This is a daunting task in your native language, let alone in a foreign one!

Therefore, we thought we’d give you a head start by listing some of the most common interview questions plus tips on how to answer them. Of course, these answers are not one-size-fits-all: you have to adapt them as you see fit. However, they will hopefully point you in the direction of what (most) interviewers are looking for!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself

After you’ve introduced yourself, it’s time for your first question, and this might very well be it.
Although it might seem easy – how hard can it be to talk about yourself? – interviewers don’t want to hear every single detail of your life story. Therefore, stick to the relevant facts – in this case, anything that is relevant to the job you’re applying for. In other words, when applying for a teaching job, don’t tell them all about the summer you worked as a cashier at your local supermarket, but do mention that you did some tutoring in high school / at university!

For example:

I’ve been working as a junior chef at a small Italian restaurant for 2 years and my duties included assisting the head chef and preparing salads. I have always been interested in food and cooking which was why I chose to follow this career path. I studied at ******* college, where I gained my first level cooking diploma.

2. What are your strengths?

This is your chance to advertise yourself! When your interviewer asks you this question, they want to know all your positive qualities. Again, stick to what’s relevant to the job! This means you need to know what kind of person is well-suited to this job, especially if you’re a newbie and entering the workforce for the first time.

An important point to remember here is not to just list a number of adjectives (anyone can do this), but to use examples to support your point, like this:

I’m a punctual person. I always arrive early and complete my work on time. My previous job had a lot of deadlines and I always made sure I was organized enough to meet them.

I consider myself to be a team-player. I like to work with other people and I find that it’s much easier to achieve something when everyone works together and communicates well.

I’m ambitious. I have always set myself goals and it motivates me to work hard. I have achieved my goals so far with my training, education and work experience and now I am looking for ways to improve myself and grow.

When I work, I always take initiative. If I see something that needs doing, I don’t wait for instruction, I do it. I believe that, to get anywhere in life, you need this quality.

3. What are your weaknesses?

Yes, you also have weaknesses – no one’s perfect! What the interviewer is trying to find out here is how you try to fix your weaknesses and they also want to know how self-aware you are.

The trick here is to turn those weaker qualities into positive qualities. For example, your weakness is that you spend too much time on projects which makes you work slower. Turn that into a positive by saying:

I sometimes am slower in completing my tasks compared to others because I really want to get things right. I will double or sometimes triple-check documents and files to make sure everything is correct.

You could also mention a weakness (like being disorganized), but say how you’re trying to overcome this, like:

I have created a time-management system, which allows me to list all my duties and organize my deadlines so I have a clearer idea of what I need to do.

4. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

This one is about your goals. Again, professional goals, not personal ones. Remember that it’s important to be ambitious, but NOT too ambitious as you don’t want to be seen as competition. You can mention:

By then I will have…I would like to have…

…improved my […] skills.
…created more of a name for myself in the industry (become more known for what you do).
…enhanced (improved) my knowledge of […]
…achieved a higher position.
…become a team leader.

Etc. etc.

5. Do you have any questions for us?

This is how an interviewer will usually finish the interview. Always make sure you have a question ready, as the interviewers want you to speak! If you don’t ask any questions, then they may view this as you being not very interested in the job.

Examples of questions you could ask:

Do you have any examples of projects that I would be working on if I were to be offered the job?
What does a typical day for someone in this position look like?
Does the company offer in-house training to staff?

We hope these tips will help you get ready for your next interview (whether it’s in English or German). Remember that the team at English to Go is here to help if you need more help with job interviews or any other Business English-related issues!

ENG                                              GER

terrifying                                     entsetzlich / furchtbar
convince                                      überzeugen
head start                                    Vorsprung
adapt                                            anpassen
apply                                            sich bewerben
strength                                       Stärke
well-suited                                  gut passend / geeignet
weakness                                     Schwäche
newbie                                         Neuling / Anfänger
entry into the workforce          Berufseinstieg
punctual                                      punktlich
ambitious                                    ehrgeizig
take initiative                             Eigeninitiative zeigen / die Initiative ergreifen
self-aware                                   selbstkritisch
competition                                Konkurrenz

 

 

….is the quote which I posted on our Facebook page earlier this week and which gave me inspiration for this week’s blog post!

I will be the first person to admit that learning a foreign language is a DAUNTING task. As a person who has studied several foreign languages I’ve been there, many times. Apart from having to learn the actual language with all its complex grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc., you also have to build the confidence to speak it, which is a long, arduous, frustrating and sometimes embarrassing process.

And in our hectic day-to-day lives with a hundred commitments to a hundred different people, who has the time, energy and motivation to see this process through until the end? Therefore, don’t blame yourself if you sometimes feel like throwing in the towel – we’ve all been there.

However, like with any goal we’ve set ourselves – whether it’s learning a language, going to the gym or eating better -, the secret lies in breaking your goal down into small, manageable chunks. Creating simple but lasting habits is more likely to lead to success than trying to do it all at once. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear states that:

”your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits!”

But where do we start, right? What are some of these habits that can make you a successful language learner? Of course, different strategies work for different people, but I thought I’d help you get started by sharing some of my own tips and tricks with you:

  • Embrace technology

There’s a reason we’re all addicted to this wonderful device called a smartphone – their possibilities are endless! Language learning is no exception: with all the wonderful grammar and vocabulary apps, online dictionaries and games that are out there, learning a new language is literally at your fingertips. Try apps like Memrise, Duolinguo or FluentU to get you started (check out our blog post from two weeks ago for more ideas!).

  • Make the most of ‘empty time’

Of course, once you’ve downloaded all those apps, you need to find time to actually USE them. Now, I know everyone is chronically short on time, but be honest…how many times a day do you have 5 minutes of ‘dead time’, where you’re just scrolling through your Facebook feed, staring into space on the train or lying on the couch? Why not use those 5-minute chunks to learn a few new words?? You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in a few minutes!

  • Set ‘micro-goals’

Decide at the start of the week what you want to achieve that week – and be realistic! Breaking your macro goal (”learning English”) down into smaller steps (”I want to learn 10 new words this week”) will make the task at hand seem less daunting and will give you a clear focus for the week as well as a sense of achievement at the end of it! Plan in great detail, i.e. decide what you’re going to do but also on what day, how much time you’ll need etc.

To finish off, let me give you an example of small things you could include in your daily routine:

  • 10 minutes of vocabulary practice with DuoLingo/Memrise or other vocab app
  • 10 minutes of reading English news (on the BBC News app, for example)
  • 10 minutes of watching your favourite English TV show
  • 1 grammar exercise from a self-study textbook
  • Watching a TED talk / listening to a podcast
  • 15 minutes of journaling in English (simply write down what you did that day)

There, that’s six steps already: one for each day of the week minus a ‘rest day’! As you can see, none of these habits will take up much of your day – 10 to 15 minutes is more than enough to make lasting changes!

Does this still seem like too much? Start with just one of the things from the list, then slowly build your way up from there! No matter how little you do, something is always better than nothing!

As always, I’ll sign off by saying that you can always walk into our office for more help, tips, motivation or whatever else you may need to make your English journey a successful and enjoyable one! ?

 

Glossary

Image result for english flag                                Image result for german flag

daunting                                         erschreckend

arduous                                          anstrengend / mühsam

embarrassing                                peinlich

see sth through                             etw zu Ende bringen

throw in the towel                        das Handtuch werfen

chunk                                              Brocken / Stück

embrace                                          aufgreifen

to have sth at your fingertips     etw zur Hand haben

chronically                                     chronisch

sense of achievement                  Erfolgserlebnis

 

 

When it’s finally time to wind down after a long day at the office, you probably want nothing else than to sit yourself down on your couch with a [cup of tea / glass of wine / your drink of choice] and RELAX!

Now, I understand that watching your favourite TV show or movie in a foreign language probably doesn’t qualify as ‘’relaxing’’. After all, you’ll be concentrating very hard, either to hear what’s being said or to read the subtitles!

And yet, if there is one super effective and enjoyable (sort of) way to learn English in a very authentic, natural way, it’s by watching TV. Let me give you a few examples of how it can benefit you…

The language is authentic

TV shows and movies provide perfect examples of natural, authentic conversations between native speakers, which are hard to find in any textbook. This makes them a perfect model for particularly pronunciation and intonation, but also informal expressions, idioms and other not-so-common vocabulary.

The visuals help understanding

Even if you don’t understand all that’s being said in the movie or TV show, you can usually get the gist of the story because of the visual context, i.e. just by watching what the actors are doing. Apart from making it easier to follow the story line, the visuals also provide extra information such as facial expressions, gestures and other body language, which supports the verbal message.

Endless variety!

Since there are countless movies and TV shows out there, anyone can find something they enjoy. Of course, watching something you’re genuinely interested is much more motivating than doing exercises from textbooks!

OK, I’m convinced….now where do I go from here?

I know it can be hard to find movies in the original language here in Germany – after all, most of what you see on TV has been dubbed. However, there are plenty of websites that provide movies with subtitles (Amazon Prime and YouTube for example, or otherwise check out this link for help: https://ratgeber-im-web.de/englische-filme-und-serien-online-schauen-so-gehts/).

A very good alternative would be to use a website designed specifically for English learning, such as English Central (www.englishcentral.com). You may not find your favourite show here, but the learner guidance it provides is wonderful.

Finally, a few tips for watching TV or movies in English…

  • Don’t be afraid to use subtitles – you will still pick up a lot of English even if you’re reading the translation! Using subtitles is better than watching without and not understanding anything!
  • Pick a show you already know – this makes it easier to follow the story.
  • Don’t watch too much at once – even 10 minutes of English TV make a difference!
  • Keep a vocabulary notebook and write down words you hear often – clearly these are useful words to know!

Hopefully this motivates you to grab some popcorn, find a great TV show or movie and…give it a try! ?

Of course, if you feel you need more tips, advice, lessons or any other form of assistance with learning English, the team at English2Go are here to help! 🙂

 

 

 

Can I have Friday off?

What’s wrong with this sentence? Technically (grammatically) speaking, nothing at all! However, if you were to ask your English-speaking boss this question, chances are you won’t get the day off! Why not? To a native English speaker, this request simply doesn’t sound very polite!

English speakers are generally much less ‘direct’ than German speakers, particularly when asking for something. Therefore, getting ‘straight to the point’ may be well received when dealing with your German colleagues, but in English it’s not the best strategy.

So how can we make our speech less ‘direct’ and thereby more polite? Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to do so. Let’s look at some techniques you can use!

 

Use modal verbs

might, can, could, would

Use distancing phrases (not using the present tense)

I was hoping…, I was wondering…, I wanted to…

Use tentative language

Maybe…, Perhaps…, I’m not sure if…, I don’t know if…, might

Use introductory phrases

It looks like…, It seems like…, Actually…,To be honest…Well…, I see what you’re saying (but…),

Use positive language (avoiding negative expressions like “bad,” “won’t work,” “ineffective,” etc.)

It might not be the best approach.

 

Here are a few practical examples to show you how to use these techniques:

 

Direct:                 There is a problem

Indirect:              It looks like we may have a problem.

 

Direct:                 I completely disagree with your proposal.

Indirect:              I see what you’re saying, but I’m not sure I fully agree with you.

 

Direct:                 Can you give me a ride home?

Indirect:              I was wondering if you could give me a ride home?

 

See what I’m getting at? Even though this is not a ‘language’ issue per se, using these sorts of phrases will definitely benefit your communication skills. Remember that these cultural lessons are a crucial part of language learning – perhaps even more important than grammar and vocabulary – as cultural norms are often reflected in language. Respecting these cultural norms when dealing with native English speakers, whether you’re asking for a promotion or a piece of paper, is bound to help you get your desired outcomes!

Some of you may be lucky enough to be learning English just for fun or personal development, without any pressure or deadline. However, one of the more common, less fun reasons for studying English is exam preparation: many companies, governments and universities require non-English speakers to sit an offical exam to establish their level of proficiency. Even if you are not forced to take a proficiency test, of course there’s no harm in doing so anyway for the sole purpose of assessing your own level or having a clearer goal to work towards!

Whether you know you’ll have to take an English exam in the near future or you’re just toying with the idea, you’ll have to decide which tests best fits your needs. Since there are so many options, you might find the table below helpful. It gives an overview of the purpose, cost, location and other key elements of the most popular international English exams.

[Image retrieved from https://www.languagecorner.amsterdam/all-english-courses/international-english-exams-tests/ ]

Remember that, even if you don’t need that piece of paper right now, you may need it in future for whatever reason. Therefore, it’s never a bad idea to sit an exam while you’re still studying English (especially if you choose one with unlimited validity) rather than wait until that course you took 10 years ago is a distant memory! Exams may not be fun, but they do give you a clear focus for your language studies and a way to measure your progress!

Of course you can always walk into our office and ask for more specific information on each of these exams. At Englishtogo, we can not only advise you on which test may be right for you, but also design a tailored course to prepare you for the exam.

Our goal is to help you achieve yours!

 

The verbs do and make can be confusing in English, especially for German learners as both verbs usually translate as machen. English uses both make and do for machen, so as a German speaker you’ll have to choose!

For example, you can say:

do an exercise.

But you can’t say:

do a cake*.

The phrase do an exercise is called a collocation. Collocations are words that usually go together, let’s say ‘’fixed’’ combinations of words (often verbs and nouns).

So how do you know when to use make or do? Unfortunately, most of the time you’ll have to memorize the collocation. However, one rule of thumb is that we normally use do for an activity or task and make for creating something.

For example:

I always do my homework in the evenings.

My mother always makes a cake for my birthday.

Here are some more examples:

DO

…the dishes

… an exercise

…research

… the laundry

… the ironing

… the shopping

… your work

… homework

… housework

… your job

… business

… your hair

… your nails

 

MAKE

… a complaint

… a decision

… a difference

… an effort

… an exception

… friends

… a journey

… a mistake

… money

… an offer

… a phone call

… a plan

… a point

… a profit

… a promise

… a speech

… a suggestion

The main point to remember is that machen is not always make in English, but can also be do!

Tip: write down some make/do collocations that you use often in your job/daily life and keep a little cheat sheet on your desk! ?

The verbs do and make can be confusing in English, especially for German learners as both verbs usually translate as machen. English uses both make and do for machen, so as a German speaker you’ll have to choose!

For example, you can say:

do an exercise.

But you can’t say:

do a cake*.

The phrase do an exercise is called a collocation. Collocations are words that usually go together, let’s say ‘’fixed’’ combinations of words (often verbs and nouns).

So how do you know when to use make or do? Unfortunately, most of the time you’ll have to memorize the collocation. However, one rule of thumb is that we normally use do for an activity or task and make for creating something.

For example:

I always do my homework in the evenings.

My mother always makes a cake for my birthday.

 

Here are some more examples:

DO

…the dishes

… an exercise

…research

… the laundry

… the ironing

… the shopping

… your work

… homework

… housework

… your job

… business

… your hair

… your nails

 

MAKE

… a complaint

… a decision

… a difference

… an effort

… an exception

… friends

… a journey

… a mistake

… money

… an offer

… a phone call

… a plan

… a point

… a profit

… a promise

… a speech

… a suggestion

 

The main point to remember is that machen is not always make in English, but can also be do!

Tip: write down some make/do collocations that you use often in your job/daily life and keep a little cheat sheet on your desk! ?

If you’ve ever tried to get your head around English pronunciation rules, you know that it can be terribly frustrating! First of all, there are some very ‘’challenging’’ (some would say impossible!) sounds (the th sound, for example). Secondly, no other language in the world has more words spelled the same way yet pronounced differently, which can make its pronunciation seem completely random – and sometimes it is!

Don’t believe me? Let me prove it to you.

  • How about the letter c in race, rack or rich?
  • Or how about silent letters, like the b in debt or the second t in whistle?
  • When we put certain letters together, it gets even more tricky – take these combinations for example.

heard – beard

road – broad

five – give

paid – said

break – speak

The list goes on and on. And if you’re still not convinced, I dare you to tell me how the cluster ough is pronounced…? The answer is: in SEVEN different ways!!

though           /ðəu/

tough              /taf/

thought           /θɑːt/

through           /θruː/

plough             /plaʊ/

thorough         /ˈθʌr.ə/

hiccough         /ˈhɪk.ʌp/

For anyone trying to get their head around English pronunciation, this is sheer torture! Is there a method to the madness…? If there is, I haven’t found it yet! Apart from advising you to read but also listen to authentic English as much as you can (a combination of the two works best in my opinion), the best I can do for you is make you aware of the fact that two words may look the same, but are not pronounced the same!

Therefore, when learning new vocab, always check both the spelling and pronunciation in your dictionary. In the meantime, keep smiling and try to enjoy the wonderfully confusing mess that is English pronunciation!

 

 

 

Vor zehn Jahren begann ich, in Berlin Englisch zu unterrichten.