False Friends

Ich habe mich blamiert by thinking blamieren meant the same thing as the English verb “to blame.” It looks just like it! Who could blame me? Perhaps no one, except I myself.

German English
Art type, style, method I have to remind German speakers misusing “art” that we’re probably not talking about Kunst.
bekommen to get (as in receive) It does not mean “to become” — that’s werden. However, there is an archaic link. Wann hat sie ihr Baby bekommen? is perfectly standard modern German, which reminds us of those biblical family relationships:
And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth…

“Begat” reminds us of Gattung, which means “genus,” so there’s another link to reproduction.

jmdn. blamieren to embarrass someone You’ll only have yourself to blame if you embarrass yourself by confusing blamieren and “to blame”!
sensibel sensitive It looks like sensible, but it’s totally not. If you mean “sensible,” you probably want vernünftig.
aktuell current, currently Looks a lot like “actual,” but “actual” should be expressed as tatsächlich, meaning “in actual fact.”
Mobbing / mobben Um…harassment? A local native explained to me that mobbing can sehr wohl be perpetrated by just one person. So perhaps Germany has completely cut the word loose from its supposed English origins.
das Handy mobile telephone, cellie Plenty of Germans now realize that this is not an English word and that native English speakers do not use it in that way. Still, in German, speaking with Germans, it is, well, handy.
eventuell maybe, perhaps See Damon’s comment below.

Beat these apparently easy connections between German and English out of your brain. They will entice you with their familiarity and then at best make you feel silly (um…ten years) later when you realize you’ve been doing it wrong, and at worst derail your otherwise confident, fluent conversation with local natives.

What are some false friends you’ve stumbled over?

2 thoughts on “False Friends

  1. Don’t forget “eventuell”! I once got in a lot of trouble when I said I would get something done eventually (in English). (In German it means “maybe”.)

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