When trying to speak German, any English speaker makes errors. Today we will help you learn from such errors, and avoid those which are most embarrassing when travelling to Germany, Austria or Switzerland on your next holiday.

There are a lot of inherent awkward mistakes. This post definitely isn’t your cup of tea, if you find the concept of unintentionally informing German people that you are horny upsetting. But if you want to be sure you don’t tell German strangers unintentionally that you are horny, you may read on.

1. elf Meter scheißen

What you believe you’re saying: penalty kick
What you actually mean is: 11 meter poo.
What you should say: elf Meter schießen is (lit. 11 meter shoot)

Everyone, even Germans, like soccer/football. When you bring up the incredible penalty kick that decided yesterday night’s game, you mispronounce the ie in schießen (to shoot) as ei, and unintentionally acclaim Thomas Müller for his game-winning (and prodigiously lengthy) bowel movement.

This is the most severe example of ei being confused with ie, but getting it incorrect often means you’re talking an entirely different word than you expected.

2. Ich bin heiß.

What you believe you are saying: I am hot.
What you’re actually saying: I am horny.
What you should say: mir ist warm. (lit. I’m toasty.)

This is a common stumbling block in many languages, and it is not the type of casual statement you want to make to people during Germany’s hot summer months.

3. Ich bin langweilig.

What you believe you are saying: I’m bored.
What you’re actually saying: I’m boring.
What you should say is: Ich bin gelangweilt. / Ich langweile mich. / Mir ist langweilig.

My auntie used to say that only boring people became bored. If you pronounce this sentence incorrectly, your German friends will agree with her.

4. Gute Nackt

What you believe you are saying: Good night.
What you’re actually saying Nice nude.
What you should say: Gute Nacht

It’s tempting to abandon the German -ch sound in favor of a -k sound, but we don’t suggest it. Wishing individuals well with their nudity will not help you gain their favor… Unless you’re on a nudist beach, when mispronunciation is the least of your worries.

Pronunciation tip for the German -ch: You create this sound when you say “cute” – it’s hidden between the c and the u. If you say it slowly enough, you’ll hear the hiss of air that is the German ch.

5. Es ist halb drei.

What you believe you’re saying: It is half past three / 3:30 p.m.
What you’re actually saying: It is half before three / 2:30.
What you should remember is that when reporting the time in German, the words “half” or “quarter” always refer to the interval of time before the hour, not after.

If you get this one incorrect, no one will laugh at you, but you won’t have any friends since you’ll constantly be precisely one hour late for everything.

6. vögeln

What you believe you’re saying: birds
What you’re actually saying: to f–k.
What should you say: die Vögel

Plurals in German may be challenging. Adding a -s to the end of a word isn’t enough. Some plural forms finish in -s, while many more end in -en, -er, or add an umlaut to the initial vowel while keeping the ending the same. You may be forgiven for believing that the plural of bird (der Vogel) is die Vögeln, but you might not be forgiven for saying it aloud — especially in front of a quiet gathering of twitchers, as you gesture enthusiastically at a pair of Lemon-rumped Warblers in the trees above.

7. mein Freund / meine Freundin

What you think you’re saying: my friend (male / female)
What you’re really saying: my boyfriend / my girlfriend
What you should say: ein Freund von mir / eine Freundin von mir (lit. a friend of mine)

You would think that there are different words for “friend” and “boyfriend” / “girlfriend.” But you’d be wrong, because this is Germany and that would be too easy. So you’ll have to remember that the way you introduce your Freund(in) describes how intimate you are with him or her.

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