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.
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.