Friday, June 14, 2013

German words that will confuse you

Once when my mom was visiting way back when I was pregnant I wasn't feeling well.  Since she is a sweet caring mom she went to the restaurant next door and got me a salad.  Now my mom doesn't know any German so I told her to get a kleine Salat or small salad.  She must have forgotten and asked them for a garden salad instead.  Her reasoning being everyone in the world knows what a garden salad is.  Everyone except for people who don't speak English and live outside the US.  What she came home with was a Gurken Salat or cucumber salad, nothing like a garden salad.  The restaurant people were really nice and gave her a little garden salad when she took it back.  As English speakers it can be easy to be tricked by lots of German words that sound like English but have completely different meanings.  A lot of these words are false cognates, or False Friends as language teachers call them.  They seem friendly and familiar but really they are not.

So here we go, my favorite False Friends, German words that will confuse you. (With pictures!)  Credit- all images are borrowed from Google images.

Thunfisch Salat- sounds like tuna salad, right?  I saw this on the menu the first time I visited my now husband in Germany.  This is what the waiter actually brought me-
literally a salad with canned tuna on top
You can also get canned tuna pizza if that's your thing. 

Pepperoni- sounds like the greasy cured sausage from Italy but is really a spicy little florescent green pepper.  German translation- Salami.

It's good to know which one of these you want on your pizza.

Rezept- kind of sounds like receipt or recipe but is actually the German word for a prescription AND the word for recipe.  I guess that makes it a cognate and a false cognate.  In the North Germans say Kassenbon for receipt.

Credit- in German this means a loan, like you get from the bank.  This use to confuse my German students so much.

Chef- sounds like the guy who cooks your food but is actually the boss.  Also gets confused a lot with the English word chief.

That's a police chief, because using one of the other chiefs kind of felt like it might be a little bit racist.  When I'm unsure I err on the side of caution.

Bekommen- sounds like become but really mean 'to receive'.  'Ich bekomme eine Kaffee.' doesn't mean you turned into a cup of coffee but it will always sound funny to me.
Fabrik- sounds like fabric but really means factory.  The other stuff is called Stoff.

 Gift- means poison.  In German it's Geschenk but oh it's interesting when you mix them up.

Handy- is the English appropriated German word for mobile phone.  A lot of Germans really think English speakers call their mobiles handys.  To them it makes perfect sense because a mobile is handy!   But we would never do that because it sounds stupid.  

Hamburger- People who live in Hamburg and also hamburgers.

Pension- this is a small hotel or guest house.  We have them all over Malente.  The word for retirement in German is Rente which sounds like rent but the German word for that is Miete.

Rat- this means advice but little furry animal is a Ratte which sounds almost the same.  How many lawyer jokes can you get out of that?
just so you know I don't have a problem with rats or lawyers
Roman- the word for novel in German also used to mean the fiction section in a book store.

Bücher- this actually isn't a false cognate but I thought it meant butcher the first time I came to Germany.

See- der See means lake and die See means ocean or sea.  I think.  Or is it the other way around? 

Of course there are a whole bunch more but those are my personal favorites.  Did I miss any good ones?  Let me know.  No one spell checked my German so forgive me if I made any errors.  What can I say?  It was quite late in the day when I was inspired to write this.

Tschüss! (pronounced kind of like cheers with a 't' and means goodbye :) 

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