When Germans Try to Speak English (text version)

For my photo blog I had this to offer for the Six Word Saturday Photo Challenge:

The rules of the challenge are six words only (no explanations). When I looked at it again a few hours later, I felt the post nevertheless needed an explanation. It is even somewhat related to teaching German.

I am not making fun of Germans speaking and writing English. I appreciate anyone who makes the effort to learn more than one language. I was at a shop a couple of days ago which had a notice in German on the door. The owner is Hungarian and she knows that I teach German so she asked if I wanted to correct any errors I found (there were a couple). It wasn’t a request for help on her part but a comment on my critical look (or what she considered to be my critical look). I declined since the text was perfectly understandable and I told her I would start correcting her as soon as I could speak Hungarian as well as she spoke German. The issue I have with the two examples in the photos are different ones.

Stayery. : I guess the idea is to create a word from stay similar to eat & eatery. Apparently, it is the name of a chain of reasonably upmarket hostels all over Germany, and the word is an artificial creation of an ad company. A lot of (bad) English is used in German advertising. English speakers cringe, German speakers often don’t understand it. Thus we have been blessed with words like Handy (= mobile phone) and Bodybag (= sling bags or bum bags) and Public Viewing (= live open air screenings of mostly sporting events).

Please do not smoking: It bothers me when I see signs in English with bad grammar (particularly in supposedly international organisations). Because there are good English speakers around. Actual mother tongue speakers who could be asked to look over a text. Or – what an outlandish concept! – use reputable translation companies (and pay the translators decently). But because English is supposedly such an easy language, texts are written and used without ever having them checked. Whether this is due to arrogance and a misplaced trust in one’s own abilities or whether it is done to safe a few Euros, I don’t know.

I am well aware of the fact that my own English is not perfect. But I dare say it is better than that of many non-native speakers and I don’t make money from my English texts (as a translator by profession I stick to translating to German).

5 thoughts on “When Germans Try to Speak English (text version)

  1. Hmmm..poor use of language c an be cringe making, I’m guilty as I don’t speak much of any other language…but I try! I’m with your comment “ I appreciate anyone who makes the effort to learn more than one language”


    1. If you (or anybody else who speaks another language) make a mistake, that’s fine. If you want me to, I will correct you if I know better. But I will not offer advice without being asked (or worse, make fun of a mistake). My problem is with companies who save money in the wrong place. Or individuals who think they can’t do anything wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

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