Communicating with Germans

3 people arguingWhat do Germans really understand when the English talk to them?

The English language has many subtleties that do not exist in German. The German language is very literal and as a result, Germans may come across as rude or off-hand to the English speaker. Of course, most Germans are not rude at all.

When attending meetings with Germans, managing German staff or dealing with German management, it is worth considering these differences in language use to ensure effective communication.

For example, I hear what you say’ means the English speaker disagrees and does not want to discuss the matter further. However, the German listener would think the speaker is accepting his point of view.

The phrase I was a bit disappointed that‘ means the speaker is annoyed. The German listener, however, may think the disappointment is only slight.

The term quite good’ will be understood literally as quite good’, although it means ‘disappointing’.

Very interesting’ means it ‘is clearly nonsense’ and may be understood as they are very impressed’.

Consider the Following Examples:

What the English say What the English mean What Germans understand
I’ll bear it in mind I’ve forgotten it already They will probably do it
I’m sure it’s my fault It’s your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don’t agree at all He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please re-write completely He has found a few typing errors
Could we consider some other options I don’t like your idea They have not decided yet
With the greatest respect … I think you are an idiot He is listening to me
That is a very brave proposalSee you later. You are insane…See you soon, not necessarily today He thinks I have courageHe wants to see me later today

To avoid such communication problems in the future, why not start German Lessons, with one of our native speaker tutors?

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