7 Mistakes that you might be doing when learning German

Language, Learning

If you are learning the German language, you may or may not have come across this word, ‘Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung’. With a total of 63 letters, it previously held the longest word spot.

But don’t let this scare you! You’re never going to use this word in your everyday conversations. German is not as difficult as people make it out to be. But even as the fourth easiest language to learn, it does come with its set of challenges.

As you learn the German language, what are some of the common or silly mistakes that you have encountered? 

7 Common mistakes that you might be making and how to avoid them

1. Confused with the grammar endings

German grammar endings can be confusing. How do you determine the gender of a noun and decide between using ‘diese’, ‘dieses’, ‘dies’ or ‘dieser’?

Let us spare you the stress and confusion by telling you that you can use these two expressions instead. 

Solution: Use ‘das da’ (this thing here) or ‘das hier’ (that thing over there)

These expressions are independent of gender and can be applied to any singular word.

2. How to tell time? 

Germans tell the time in two different ways and they don’t use the am and pm system. In a formal setting, you will often hear them using the 24-hour system such as “Der Zug geht um 19 Uhr 45” (The train is leaving at nineteen hundred hours and forty-five) to avoid any misunderstandings or confusion. 

But the other way of telling time involves the words ‘viertel’ (quarter) and ‘halb’ (half). Although it may seem similar to the system used in the English language, when Germans say ‘halb’, they mean to say half an hour earlier because they think of it as half to the hour, not an hour and a half.

Solution:Halb’ (half) means half an hour earlier. Eg:- “Half fünf” is actually half-past four.

3. When introducing your friend

When speaking in English, you can call your friend a friend. But this doesn’t quite apply in the German language because the word ‘Freund/in’ can mean both platonic and romantic relationships. So, when you say “mein/e Freund/in” (my friend), it means that you are referring to your partner.

To avoid this misunderstanding, simply use the indefinite article “ein Freund” or “eine Freundin” (a friend). Also, please note that ‘Freund/in’ begins with a capital letter, as it is a noun.

Solution: Use the indefinite article ‘ein Freund’ or ‘eine Freundin’ (a friend) to introduce your friend.

4. The usage of future tense

Although the German language does have a future tense, most German speakers don’t use it. So, instead of saying “Ich werde am Wochenende nach Koblenz fahren” (I will go to Koblenz at the weekend), just use the present tense as the weekend already tells that it will happen in the future. Most native speakers will say “Ich fahre am Wochenende nach Koblenz” to say the same thing.

Solution: Don’t overuse the future tense as most German speakers don’t use it.

5. Formalities when talking to strangers

Formality is taken very seriously in Germany. The English word ‘you’ can be translated in many different ways in German and it’s very important to know which one to use. 

Solution

  • Use ‘du’ when you are talking to friends, children, or animals. 
  • Use ‘Sie’ when you are talking to adult strangers. 
  • Use ‘ihr’ when you are talking to a group of friends.

But not to worry as most Germans will gladly guide you in a conversation. Some will even offer the ‘du’ by saying “Wir können du sagen or du kannst du zu mir sagen?” (we can use du, you can call me du?).

6. Formalities when talking to strangers

When talking about the past, the most common way is to use the Perfekt, a tense similar to the English language’s past perfect. But the tricky part is to know when to use the verb ‘sein’ (to be) and the verb ‘haben’ (to have).

Solution: Use verb ‘sein’ (to be) for verbs of motion or transition.

For example, to walk is said as “gehen” and to become is said as “werden”, using the verb ‘sein’. For actions that are unrelated to motion or transition, you use the verb ‘haben’, an example would be saying “Ich habe gegessen” to say that you have eaten. 

7. Wrong pronunciation!

Although there is no similar sound to the German ‘ch’ (sounds a bit like a snore or when people clear their throat) in the English language, some people may confuse ‘ch’ with ‘ck’ when reading German words. But the truth is, the two are very different as ‘ck’ sounds similar to the English ‘-k’.

This mispronunciation happens when people say “Gute Nackt” (good naked) instead of “Gute Nacht” (good night) when they want to say good night.

Solution: Be careful not to replace the German ‘ch’ with a ‘-k’ sound when saying good night.

So, how many of these mistakes have you encountered? If you have been making these mistakes, don’t worry! Even native speakers are susceptible to making them. The best thing to do is to learn from them and practise the right way of conversing in German. After all, practice makes perfect! Or as the Germans say it, Übung macht den Meister!

Do you have more common mistakes you made when learning German to share with us? We’d love to hear from you!

To learn German, review and find out more about our classes and get in touch with us now!

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