On Wednesday, I have my first observed lesson in Germany. This is obviously taken a lot more seriously than it was in Latvia. In fact, I worked for one school in Riga for two years, and wasn’t observed once.

Of course, they tell you that it’s “routine” and designed to “support the development of the teacher”, but the fact that it could just as easily be used as ammunition to fire you is always top of your mind – or maybe that’s just me. (Gives self a kick and a lecture on being positive.)

I first received notification of my observation in mid-December in the form of a rather lengthy email. And, as with most things in Germany, there is a shitload lot of paperwork to be completed – both pre- and post-observation.


Oh, and to add insult to injury, the observation is at 8am. On my birthday.

As it happens, this lesson is the last lesson with that particular group – one of my favourites – so it will mainly be a review of what they should have learned. This meant that it was time to reach for The Notebook of “Huh?”.

When I’m teaching, I generally prefer to leave error correction until the end of the lesson. Instead of interrupting students all the time (and risk them clamming up), I just jot down some of the more common mistakes they make and correct them in the last 5-10 minutes of the lesson. This means that I now have a notebook full of common mistakes Germans make in English.

The Notebook of “Huh?”
Even though this particular group is elementary level, a lot of these mistakes can be found pretty much across the board. So here they are, some of the top mistakes German students of English make:

1. It’s no secret that Germans like long words. Just today I came across this “little” gem in an insurance document – Altersvorsorgeverbesserungsgesetz. Often students will ask you what something is in English. I tell them it’s not a word in English, it’s a paragraph.

It seems that our puny little English words are not complicated enough for them though, so they’ll often add an extra syllable or two to make them more German-friendly – “organisator”, “conversating”,  “feministic” and “divorcement” are a few that spring to mind. Maybe it was being too feministic that led to the divorcement…

2. Unlike Latvian or Russian speakers, Germans have no problems with articles (a/an/the) in English. They have them in German – too bloody many of them in fact. However, like most non-native speakers, they still struggle with prepositions. You’ll hear things like:

“I was on a meeting” (at)

“At Sunday” (on)

“I drove at work” (to)

“I reacted on it” (to)

And so on/off/at/in/to/for/from.

3. Another one that gets most non-native speakers is those tricky conditional sentences, so I’ll try to give a few German-appropriate examples of correct usage.

Zero: If it’s a day ending in “day”, Germans drink beer. 

First: If I see Karlheinz, I’ll shake his hand. (Germans love shaking hands.)

Second: If I had a poo shelf, there wouldn’t be so much splash-back. 

Third: If we hadn’t eaten those sausages, we would have been very hungry. 

Mixed: If I hadn’t drunk that last Glühwein, I would feel much better now. 

4. Germans really like making literal translations. (Not that I can talk – hoch fünf anyone?) Hearing things like “I have not a car”, “Let’s meet us after the weekend”, “the mother of my wife”, “hand shoes” and “we see us next week” are pretty common.

I’m just waiting for the day that someone tells me they’re grinning like a honey cake horse…

5. Pronouncing every “s” like a “z” and “th” like an “s”, for example:

I sink I will zee you zoon.

Anyway, enough of Germans’ mistakes – for now. I’m off to try to scrub off Saturday night’s mistakes. Again. Yes, it seems that German clubs even stamp more efficiently than any other nation.

Two showers and counting...
Two showers and counting…






131 thoughts on “Observations”

  1. Omg! I’ve missed your writing soooo much, Linda! (I’ve been really bogged down with my trial and the fallout, so I haven’t been in here for about a month.) Happy Birthday, btw. When was it? I thought I saw something on Facebook about it.

    And Congrats on Berlinblogs!!! Well done!

    I was relieved to learn that the wrist thing was a bar stamp and not a bruise.

    Gotta get some sleep. I’ve got a gig tomorrow. Thanks for a great laugh before bed. Gonna check to see if I’ve missed any other posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What in the world are hand shoes? Gloves? Mittens?
    I think the prepositions are hard on everyone, in every foreign language. The Russians make a lot of the same swaps in English as the Germans do, it seems. So, how did your evaluation go?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought getting prepositions wrong was just one of those things second-language speakers did because, basically, there’s no logic to them. Or the logic’s different in every language. A phrase comes to mind from the Yiddish-speaking garment workers of my grandparents’ generation: “I work by buttons.” Meaning “I sew on buttons.” As for me, my Spanish is just good enough that I can hear myself getting the prepositions wrong but not good enough to get them right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think the main problem is direct translation! I’m not even good enough to attempt prepositions yet – it will be a fun day for Germany when I start butchering those too 😉


  4. This was so interesting to get a peek inside your life as an English teacher! There are similarities between German and Norwegian, and many of the translations you’ve observed are very similar to those I’ve heard in Norway.

    I can only imagine what my Norwegian teachers and friends have thought about MY Norwegian grammar and more-literal-translations from English!

    Norwegian compound words are incredible, too.

    And: Happy birthday, Linda!


  5. as an English speaker, did you capture the difference between Sie, Ihr and Du? how do you address your students and collegues?


    1. I get the difference, but with my colleagues I speak English as they’re all English speakers!
      And I call my students by their first names. Not sure if it’s inappropriate or not but I’m not sitting in a one-to-one lesson calling someone Mr Müller for an hour and a half!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. haha but thats exactly what we do! the other night I was at the doctors office and he would talk to me for half an hour and he would call me Frau Lorenz even though he is my age. I adress my students at the uni as Herr/Frau its a must around here. btw when some exchange students from Ireland visited here recently and I called one of them Mr Crawford he nearly died of laughter so I gave up on it. I continued to call him Eric but with German students there is still the distance…. and I always address them with SIe of course….

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha, if someone insisted on calling me Frau O’Grady, I’d probably die laughing too!
          The way I see it is it’s an English class, but it’s not just about the language, it’s also cultural. If these students go to Ireland, the UK, America, etc. they won’t be called Mr/Ms something by everyone so it’s preparation!


  6. Urg… It kills me when they say ” half nine” here. I once had an argument with a coworker trying to explain to him that for me it sounds like either 8:30 or 4.5, and if it is the latter then I should still be in bed sleeping. 🙂 He did not get it.
    Another one is instead of ” I saw it” they pronounce it as ” I sore it” or ” I dear” instead of “idea”. Jees, i don’t even want to start counting how many consonants they drop.
    And it is supposed to be the King’s English! Where the hell did I land? :))))))))))))))

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, dropping consonants where they should be, adding them where they shouldn’t be – welcome to Ingerland 😉 Though I’m guilty of the half nine thing myself 😉


  7. I am now searching for the mirrored blog post that my Dutch teacher might write about the class I’m in. I am sure she has plenty of examples of how we can’t seem to tell the difference between the many forms of “oo” and how we can’t get in the habit of jamming our verbs on the ends of our sentences!


  8. Um. What are hand shoes?

    (Also, Russian observations happened like… twice… before they gave up and decided they had better things to do. Plus, no paperwork! Hurray for mediocrity!)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good luck! I have yet to be observed here (knocks on wood, presses thumb), but had them regularly in Prague. No fun, no fun at all. But that’s great that you have it with a good group. That makes a huge difference!

    Side note: the correction notebook is a great idea, I may have to borrow it. I struggle with correction, and I’m sure I don’t do enough of it. Like you said, it’s hard to break in without them clamming up, or losing their train of thought. May have to give it a whirl… but do you think 5 minutes is enough time? Some of my classes are only 60 minutes, so it’s almost impossible to get anything done some days. Darn chatty Germans!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right?! Well, it depends on the level and how complicated the mistakes are. I usually allow 10 – I write them up on the board and get the students to spot the mistakes. Most of the time they spot them immediately – it’s not that they don’t know the stuff, just that they’re focusing on getting the words out rather than grammatical correctness! Give it a try! And get the students to write down ‘what I said’ and ‘what I should have said’ over the course of a few weeks – they’ll see the same mistakes popping up over and over so it eventually starts to sink in! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I HATED being observed….it only happened a few times and I was lucky because it was SUPER laid back AND – no documents involved. 🙂 I still hated it. Now I teach privately, so I can do whatever I want. 🙂

    So it looks like you went to the deeeeescoteca (as they say in Italy) on Saturday….did you have fun?? Love the cheesy deeeeescotecas in Germany…they are a lot of fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, I was at a karaoke bar called Monster Ronson’s 🙂 It was great! You could sing with a live band – but I was too shy 😉 Next time 😉
      At least I have today to relax/freak out about the ob – free day on Tuesday now, yay 🙂


  11. Oh, the prepositions! They’ll trip you up in any language. I still have trouble with prepositions in Italian. Problem is when you try to think of what the preposition would be in your native language and then translate that word. It’s almost never the same. @*&#) Prepositions!

    Happy early birthday! Eat cake. Drink beer. And hoch fünf!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, yeah, I think phrasal verbs and prepositions are the worst part of the English language for foreigners! If you screw up verb tenses or pronunciation, someone will probably still understand you. If you say ‘knock up’ instead of ‘knock out’ (as in Lafemmet’s example!), it could lead to big trouble 😉


  12. Honestly, you will thank your students for all the mistakes they make as it will aid you in learning the German language. I was teaching in Taiwan a year before I started going to Chinese class and my teacher was amazed at my ability to catch on to the grammar so easily. No, I am not a whiz – I just heard the same mistake every day for a year. Yes, indeed I am a ‘Canadian person’ and ‘My home have a TV.’ 🙂

    Good luck with your observation. I actually partied with the one who used to observe my classes. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mine don’t seem like big party girls 😉 I think there will be two of them which is even worse!
      And yes, I notice that the German mistakes help with my German! It gives you an idea of how they structure things which is a great help, like ‘I have not a TV’ = ‘Ich habe nicht…’ Makes perfect sense!


    1. Ha, well if you ever want your students to speak, it’s probably advisable 😉 If it’s truly heinous, I might interrupt but otherwise, it’s best left til the end. I wish I had a list of common mistakes I make in German but the teachers didn’t do it like that. If they correct you on the spot, you repeat it after them, breathe a sigh of relief as they move on to the next person and forget what you said immediately. If the mistakes are all written on the board and you have to help correct them, you remember them better – I think 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Happy Birthday for Wednesday! I’ve just added you back to the blogroll on Distant Drumlin. I’m so super-efficient that I had deleted the link to Latvian Eye. Now you’re definitely into your German stride, so you are back on the list!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha, give me your top five!
          Like I said, I have a notebook full of them – some more common than others. ‘We see us’ had me stumped for a while I must admit 😉


            1. The English drop half the consonants in words from what I can hear – then take the piss out of Irish people for pronouncing them 😉
              Compu-ah vs CompuTeRRRR 🙂


            2. Oh, Spanier, da kann ich mitreden! My Spaniards refuse to understand that b and v are different letters with different pronunciations. One of them teaches English by the way. I told her “it’s like English, b and v are different there too, right?” …….”Are they?” *zigh*

              Liked by 2 people

                1. Hehe 🙂
                  Hoch fünf and happy birthday and good luck for tomorrow by the way!!!!!!!!! (Now this is another Spanish thing. Why use only one ! if you can use 10?)

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. Ha ha! Latvians are the same – they do smileys like this )))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) 😉
                  And thanks for the birthday wishes! I’ll need the luck ))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))


                3. Haha! Or as the Spanish say: Jajajajajajajajajaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!! (also: ALWAYS use more than one “a” or “o” etc.)
                  I like ))))))))))))))) Will have to use that. Thanks to you, very soon people won’t be able to unerstand me.
                  Hoch füüüüüüüüünfffff!!!!!!!!!!! )))))))))))))))))))

                  Liked by 1 person

              1. I hear you… I’ve met many Spaniards who are teaching English and who really, really shouldn’t. All they do is create yet another generation of inept “English speakers”, who will only ever be understood by fellow native Spanish speakers. And perhaps a couple of Italians. What’s the bloody point of that?! I guess the root of the problem is a shortage of competent English teachers, and not all native speakers are competent, not by a long shot 😦

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Very true! I remember hearing of a guy who corrected a group of students who were saying ‘should have/would have’. He told them it should be ‘should of/would of’. Cringe.


                2. My Aussie friends and I overheard some Americans explaining the conditional to some Spanish people in a local bar: “If I would buy potatoes in the supermarket, I would pay less.” WTF?! LOL!

                  Liked by 1 person

                3. Ha, I hear that in American movies and on TV shows all the time! I still tell my students it’s horrible grammar though 😉
                  Thankfully most of my students prefer British English!


                4. It’s WRONG in any kind of English!

                  Funnily enough, that happens in German as well, with the same screwed-up construction (in the conditional, I mean). I’m sure I’ve sinned plenty of times myself. But to explain it wrongly to other learners… *cringe*. You can always add some explanation regarding colloquial usage.

                  Liked by 1 person

                5. The Irish most certainly do not! I’m not sure if it’s regional but I’ve heard it from pretty much every English person I’ve ever met!


  14. So, if every s is a z, shouldn’t it be Zigh? 😛

    The Hot German I dated used to lisp, too. Instead of “Ich” it would be “iscth.” I try and try and try but I can’t make sense of those long words and pronunciations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The divorcement guy just LOVES making up words – or rather saying what he thinks really are words. He’s brilliant 🙂
      I have a few students who do the cheap/sheep thing as well! Much and many is also a source of great confusion 🙂


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