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English 'False Friends' for German Speakers.

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Remember, a factory can produce fabric, but it isn’t a Fabrik. Mixing up words with a similar spelling or pronunciation can be a common problem for German speakers. In this post I look at some of the most common ‘false friends’ and give a couple of exercises to learn their correct usage.


Try to correctly translate the following sentences firstly to know which false friends you know, and which you need to practice. Each sentence has a description and further practice in the article below.

  1. "Unser Chef kommt aus London".

  2. "Alle unsere Produkte werden in einer Fabrik in China hergestellt".

  3. "Die aktuelle Situation des Geschaftes ist nicht gut".

  4. "Über Entlassungen zu sprechen, ist derzeit ein sensibles Thema".

  5. "Ich bin ein bisschen irritiert, weil ich den richtigen Sitzungsraum nicht finde"

The correct translation of the words in bold should have been;

1) manager. 2) factory. 3) current. 4) sensitive. 5) confused.


______________________


1. Chef /Manager: A typical mistake would be to say "Our chef comes from London" which actually means "Unser Koch kommt aus London", and so you should actually have said "Our manager comes from London".


Remember;

The German word Chef should be translated as manager.

A chef in English is translated as Koch.


Complete the following sentences with either manager or chef.

1. She is the _______ of a team of engineers.

2. We have a __________ who prepares our food every day.

3. The company is led by a ­­­­­­­­general ________________ and two assistant __________ .

4. This food is amazing, the __________ is obviously very good.

5. The ____________'s office is on the first floor of the companies head office.

6. The kitchen is overseen by a professional ____________, but the food is prepared and served by trainees.

______________________

2. Fabric / Factory: A typical mistake would be to say "All of our products are made in a fabric in China" which actually means "Alle unsere Produkte werden in einem Stoff in China hergestellt.", and so you should actually have said "All our products are made in a factory in China.".

Remember;

The German word Fabrik should be translated as factory.

Fabric in English means Stoff.


Complete the following sentences with either fabric or factory.

1. The clothes are made in a ___________.

2. The clothes are made out of a ___________.

3. He works in a ____________ that produces ­___________.

4. What kind of _____________ do you use to make this suit?

5. This ____________ produces 10,000 vehicles every year.


______________________


3. Aktuell / actually: A typical mistake would be to say "The actual situation of the business is not good" which actually means "Die eigentliche Situation des Geschaftes ist nicht gut.", and so you should actually have said "The current situation of the business is not good".


Remember,

The German word Aktuell should be translated as current (adj) or currently (adv).

Actually in English means wirklich, or eigentlich.


Complete the following sentences with either actually, current or currently.

1. ____________, that isn’t the latest draft of the document. It was updated today.

2. I am ____________ writing a new draft proposal.

3. Don’t start an email with the word Hi. Starting with Hello is ____________ a much better way of addressing somebody.

4. They ____________ don’t have any time slots available I’m afraid.

5. Did you ____________ send the document or not.

6. We are ____________ in a difficult situation.


_____________________


4. Sensible / sensible: A typical mistake would be to say "Talking about redundancies is quite a sensible issue at the moment " which actually means " Über Entlassungen zu sprechen, ist derzeit ein vernünftiges Thema.", and so you should actually have said "Talking about redundancies is quite a sensitive issue at the moment".


Remember,

The German word sensible should be translated as sensitive.

Sensible in English means vernünftig.


Complete the following sentences with either sensitve or sensible.

1. Discussing what people earn here is quite a ____________ topic, so we don’t do it.

2. This approach seems very ____________ to me, so let’s go with that one.

3. Immigration is often a politically ____________ issue.

4. The second option would be much more ____________, the first option doesn’t look like a good idea at all.

5. He is very ____________ and doesn’t take criticism well.

6. He is very ____________ and always seems to make the right choices.


_____________________


5. irritiert / irritated: A typical mistake would be to say "I'm a bit irritated, I can't find the right meeting room" which actually means " Ich bin ein bisschen genervt, weil ich den richtigen Sitzungsraum nicht finde ", and so you should actually have said " I'm a bit confused, I can't find the right meeting room ".

Remember,

The German word irritiert should be translated as confused.

Irritated in English means genervt.

Complete the following sentences with either confused, confusing, irritated or irritating.

1. The new employee from England uses lots of __________ idioms that I never fully understand.

2. The sound of the new phone ring is very ____________.

3. You might find the different policies ____________.

4. His style of speaking is ____________, I actually found myself getting annoyed with him.

5. The structure of the contract is very ____________, the information seems to contradict itself.

6. I find it really ________ when the internet doesn't work properly.


__________________


I have only chosen some of the most common false friends based on the frequency that they have come up with my own students, but there are many more. The lists False friends in English and German Vocabulary and German-English False Friends: Top 100 List with Explanations go into a lot more detail for anyone wanting to look at other false friends between English and German.


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