The top 25 mistakes Germans make in English

1. I am born in Berlin.
2. We are meeting us next week.
3. I am living here since 1998.
4. I moved here for 6 years.
5. I have lived in Halle until 1997.
6. We have often meetings in Frankfurt.
7. We have opened in Potsdam our new headquarters.
8. Can you borrow me your pen?
9. I am working for Audi.
10. I’m looking forward to see you.
11. How long do you work here?
12. I am used to solve problems.
13. Right now I take a course in English.
14. I call you back in 5 minutes.
15. Our new head of department has been here since six months.
16. Dr Big wants that I come in to work on Saturday.
17. My husband has an own company.
18. Dr Big is not on his desk right now.
19. Sorry, but he’s busy in the moment.
20. I drive to work with my car.
21. I haven’t seen her in the last time.
22. I have to leave now, but I’ll make it first thing tomorrow morning.
23. Do you like some more coffee?
24. You can get downtown by foot.
25. I need your confirmation until Friday at the latest.

language focus: mistakes Germans make in business English


David Crystal on Obama’s rhetorical style

David Crystal has analyzed Barack Obama’s acceptance speech for rhetorical style in his blog, showing how Obama used the “rule of three” (creating vibrant triptychs), pairing, repetition, structural parallelism and the “rule of seven” (a memory-friendly number of details) to create the rhetorical drama needed to extend his listeners’ attention span and build excitement. Thanks, Jo!

Excerpts of his analysis: Continue reading David Crystal on Obama’s rhetorical style

I’m looking forward to hearing from you

Here’s another chant, this one created on the spot in Paderborn at Benteler (for Akademie für Sekretariat und Büromanagement).
Hi ladies 🙂 !

Snap your fingers to anchor the +ing in your memory.

I’m looking forward to seeing you
I’m looking forward to meeting
I’m looking forward to hearing
from you
I’m looking forward to talking
to you.

Why? “To” is a preposition here, and prepositions are followed by +ing

I’m looking forward to +ing (informal, expresses feeling)
I look forward to +ing (more formal expession)
Look forward to +ing (informal email)

cul8r! See you later

language focus: verb + preposition + -ing

How long have you been here?

Management Circle offered a business communication seminar for management assistants in Frankfurt that I had the privilege to teach. They do a really professional job of organising these events. My students, Astrid, Christine, Elke, Petra, Sladana and Theresia were such a pleasure to be with. Two days are obviously very short, but I have the impression that they left the seminar highly motivated to apply their new skills. I tried not to slay them with input, which of course is always the danger with these short intensive courses. Overall, I’m very pleased with how things went.

Here’s a chant I used in this seminar which is really effective. Grammar needs to be “automated”, you shouldn’t be thinking about tenses when you talk – so that’s where chants shine. Continue reading How long have you been here?

At the time

A favorite student of mine uses at the time when he really wants to say at the moment. Here are some correct models:

  • At the moment I’m getting ready to teach my second compact seminar for Management Circle. The last one was in spring. I was learning to work my new laptop at the time.
  • I started my teaching career at a private school. We were living in Siegen at the time. I’m not teaching at any schools at the moment.

Notice how “at the time” goes with the continuous form, so it sets the scene for an incident that happened during that period. Create your own personal sentence to remember phrases like this.  Or anchor it in your memory like this:anch

now =  a moment = at the moment

then = a long time ago = at the time

Things Germans say wrong

1.    My chief is in a meeting.
2.    She’s a very engaged worker.
3.    I can’t understand what you’re saying. There’s something wrong with the hearer.
4.    She’s a sympathetic woman, I really like her.
5.    He works in the pharmaceutical branch.
6.    I jobbed as a temp before I started working here.
7.    I’ll send your confirmation per fax.
8.    I’m sorry, I overheard what you said. Could you say it again, please?
9.    When does your machine land?
10.    I’ll become the fish and the salad.
11.    I don’t like watching synchronized films – I prefer the original version with subtitles.
12.    I’d like to welcome you to our company on behalf of the direction.
13.    Here at the company people are supposed to dress decently.
14.    I’m a little irritated because I can’t find your file here. Are you sure you sent it?
15.    He’s a bit sensible on that issue, so I wouldn’t mention it if I were you.
16.    Could you please sign here at the bottom of the formula?
17.    We’re planning a representative new building.
18.    I still have a staple of work to do, so I’ll be here for another two hours.
19.    I’m a chief secretary.
20.    Sign on the backside, please.
21.    Did you become my message?
22.    Is this telephone number still actual?
23.    I might eventually be able to book you on an earlier flight.
24.    We’d like to spend you a nice dinner.
25.    I made my commercial training in Augsburg.


Photo: Gabi Schoenemann,

Language focus: German/English false friends in business English