What 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, Germans are not rude at all.
When attending meetings with Germans, managing German staff or dealing with German management, it is worth considering these language use differences 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 accepts 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 proposal
See you later.
|You are insane…
See you soon, not necessarily today
|He thinks I have courage |
He wants to see me later today.
To avoid such communication problems in the future, why not start learning German with one of our native speaker German tutors?