When I first came to Austria I got extremely excited by the prospect of ordering a sandwich at the deli. Yes, yes, I know… the bubble I live in is a strange and wonderful one. But back to the story – at most supermarkets, you can grab yourself a roll (be it white, round, long, or if you’re like me, a Kornspitz), then ask the staff behind the counter to fill it with ham, cheese and gherkins.
I love checking out the selection of rolls (even though I now always stick with my Kornspitz, kind of like how I always order a Big Mac). I love considering the different ham and salami options – but here I’m a creature of habit too, and I can’t move past the garlic-salami. Cheese and gherkins are added, and then my instant sandwich is packaged up at a ridiculously low cost. We often resort to these for quick lunches on the go and we buy one every time we are about to get on a plane in Austria.
Short and bitter.
This post is dedicated to those times I thought I had everything under control, those times I thought that I understood the German conversation flowing around me perfectly.
And then BANG – I suddenly realise I’ve accidentally agreed to a second schnapps, or a third, on top of all that other alcohol.
So here comes the schnapps. And I smile, like it was my plan all along. Just like that time I ordered the wrong sav – the cab instead of the blanc.
And I drink it down, and I sigh appreciatively like a good Austrian-in-training should.
The German language is known for its long words. Without even going into the ridiculously long words (which to be honest nobody uses anymore anyway) try Entschuldigung instead of simply saying ‘sorry’ or Kniebeuge for ‘squat’. Though in all honesty, part of the problem is that the German words just don’t fit well in our English-speaking mouths – they come out all clumsy and end up sounding a lot longer than they do when spoken by a native speaker.
But there are exceptions. So I’ve made a list of 10 words that are actually shorter in German:
They say that after a certain age, a person loses the ability to pronounce certain parts of a foreign language. That means, unless you start learning a second language from when you’re a kid, you’re always going to sound like a foreigner and there will always be some words you just can’t get right. Here are ten of mine:
The German word for ‘squirrel’ is basically impossible to pronounce. I could repeat it all day and it still wouldn’t come out right. However, it makes me feel a bit better that Austrians can’t pronounce the English ‘squirrel’ either.
When I first started learning German, naturally I did all kinds of Google searches on hints, tips and tricks to learning a language faster. There must be some kind of magic formula, I assumed, and if I could just unveil it, fluency would be mine!
Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there just isn’t. Sure, there’s plenty of ideas, but none of them take away from the fact that learning a language comes with hard work and practice.
One thing I came across a lot was so-called ‘fun’ and ‘easy’ ways to learn another language. I clung onto those with everything I had. Options like watching movies in a foreign language, reading local newspapers and listening to the local radio… sure these may sound like fun, but actually, they’re not.
Here’s why these methods are actually no fun at all, and up until now, have barely helped me.
I recently had a good friend come to stay for a week and half in our tiny little town. A word for the wise – that is too long for most in our tiny little town. Being autumn and getting colder, although the weather wasn’t terrible, there is still a limit to what we could do. On days where the sun takes until lunchtime to pierce the fog, it still feels dismal and cold and motivation is low.
German is not an easy language, but then neither is English. And kudos for everyone who didn’t grow up in an English-speaking country, because that means they probably handle multiple languages on a daily basis.
Read on for some of my favourite, commonly used mis-translations that Austrians often say in English.