Common Mistakes in Learning German

Common Mistakes

When learning a new language, a lot of trial and error is involved. Do you want to speak German fluently but are a native English speaker? Are you inadvertently disclosing too much personal information, or are you saying what you mean to say? If you know what to watch out for, you can avoid a few frequent blunders.

 False friends (false cognates)

I become a jelly donut

I once stood in line at a bakery with my ex-girlfriend’s father, who was German, robust, and did not like me very much. Suddenly, he turned to me and said, “Ryan, I become a jelly donut.”

Incorrect use of genders and definitive articles “der,” “die,” or “das”

In German, each person, place, or thing belongs to one of three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.

For example, friend in German has masculine and feminine forms. Use Freundin when speaking about one female friend and Freudinnen for a group of female friends. 

 Wrong plural formation

Plurals can be tricky in German. It’s not enough to just slap on an -s. Some plural forms of nouns do end in -s, but many more end in –en or -er or add an umlaut to the first vowel and leave the ending unchanged.

 Misuse of case system and wrong case following a preposition

The word I in English refers to the subject in the sentence, and the word me refers to the object in the sentence. German works the same way, except that there are four different grammatical cases in German.

Pesky prepositions

There are key differences in turns of phrase that you must practice because direct translations are fraught with issues.

German and English often use different prepositions for similar idioms or expressions. Write them down and practice.

Wrong verb ending (conjugation)

It is almost always more difficult to lernen the verb endings of another language. The English language is much less complex when it comes to verb conjugation, which can make things tricky for a beginner of German.

Not using reflexive pronouns (Are you bored or boring?)

Many German verbs require a reflexive pronoun, and it’s important to learn which ones to avoid saying something you don’t mean.

 Incorrect sentence order

As we’ve already seen, word choice makes all the difference, but word order matters even more. German syntax is flexible and relies on case endings for clarity. 

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