My German Professor always corrects me when I am using an “americanism” in my German speech. For instance, in English, if we were to talk about something that happened in a certain year, we would say “In 1999, …”. In German, we would say, “In the year 1999, …”, or “1999, …”, but never “In 1999, …”, even though, the word “in” has the same meaning in English and German. Since Germans tend to use a lot of American phrases, and one would indeed hear this incorrect German from time to time, it is known as an “americanism”. These are getting more and more common in colloquial German lately. I have come up with a few Germanisms, to go the other way. This just gets funny.

Let us take some English words, “eventually”, “actual”, and “to mean something”. The equivalent words in German are, “irgendwann, endlich”, “eigentlich”, and “meinen”. Nothing special, although, the word “meinen” in German, can mean two different things in English. “to mean something”, i.e. “I said this, but I meant that”, but it can also mean “to say something”, i.e. “I said that”. Then there are two other German words, “eventuell”, and “aktuell”. These mean “possibly”, and “new” or “up-to-date”, respectively. So here it is, hold on to your seats:

German: “Er meinte, wir müssten eventuell unsere Software aktualisieren.”

English translation: “He said, we possibly need to update our software.”

Germanism (incorrectly translating the German words into the English words that sound the same):

“He meant, we eventually have to actualize our software.”


Seriously, that is funny. This is so funny. I want to hear someone say this to me. Unfortunately, most German exchange students that come here every year have already mastered the English language, so I don’t get this kind of amusement. Well, that was my Germanism. Hope you liked it.


TrabbaJuly 12th, 2006 at 23:11

I think Czechs get English confused with German because they always stuff like say “There’s coffee always there, I mean.” or “I mean, yes” (Meine ich, can be “to think” in German, like giving your opinion)

EvensonJuly 13th, 2006 at 00:53

Wouldn’t correct reported speech be:

“Er meinte, wir müssten…”

Since the indicative form “müssen” is the same as the Konjunktive 1 form “müssen”, you use the replacement rule and switch it to the Konjunktive 2 form “müssten”.

Yes, I know…this type of grammatical minutia is interesting only to me and will definately not help me in getting laid at the bar.

jabbaJuly 13th, 2006 at 07:42

Yeah, actually I believe you are right. I was thinking it looked wrong when I wrote it, but couldn’t remember that specific rule. Thanks, its fixed now.

FredJuly 23rd, 2006 at 15:59

Zach, your German skills rule. Not kidding.

Leave a comment

Your comment