Tag Archives: sound errors

What a Difference a G Makes

One of my fellow Dialog in Deutsch participants works as a live-in carer for an elderly woman with dementia. She is a Betreuerin. In a novel I was reading, one of the characters set up scams to get people, perhaps elderly and with dementia, to part with their money. She is a Betrügerin. While there is a vowel difference in the second syllable – /ˈtrɔy/ vs. /ˈtry:/ – this is rather subtle for the non-native ear, and thus that G becomes quite important to distinguish whether someone is being helpful or doing something harmful.

According to the Wortbildung analysis on canoo.net, betreuen is formed from the prefix be and the adjective treu – “faithful” or “true” – and betrügen is formed by adding be to the verb trügen – “to deceive” and gegenteil-von.com gives treu sein as the opposite of betrügen!

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The American Hedgehog?

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, a group of us decided to have a “BBQ” (or “barbecue” or “barbeque” or “B-B-Q” or “barbie” or “cookout” or with a different sentence structure “to grill”) – die Grillparty – in Stadtpark which happily for me is very close to where I live. This is very popular in Stadtpark and as a result there are Grillzone – “grilling areas” and Grilltonne – “large metal rubbish containers for coals.”

At the end of the evening when we were trying to find all of our things in the dark, we ran across a hedgehog – der Igel – which is pronounced like the English word “eagle” – [ˈi:gl̩] (which is der Adler in German). Between the eagle being the national bird of the US and the word Igel starting with a capital “I” which as an English word is pronounced [aɪ] rather than [ˈi:], I fear that this is a word that will always mark me as a non-native speaker. A thought which makes me think »I, wie ekelig« – “Ugh, that’s horrible” – and »I wo« -“No way!” – although it seems highly likely that I will need to forget how these phrases are spelled if I want to use them properly!

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Unfortunate songs?!

Tonight is one of my favorite kitsch classics – The Eurovision Song Contest – which puts me in mind of an error I made a few months ago when talking about this event. Instead of saying “songs” – die Lieder – I said *die Leider which, if it were a noun, would perhaps mean something like “the unfortunates” as the most common meaning of leider is “unfortunately.” Now this is an error that should only be common among people whose native tongue includes both “ei” and “ie” as vowel combinations and who have some idea of how the word “song” is spelled in German. In other words, I made this error as a result of mis-recalling how the word das Lied – “song” – is spelt, rather than mis-recalling how it sounds.

It is also possible that pushing me away from the correct spelling, and thus the correct pronunciation, is the English false friend “lied” which shares the spelling but neither the meaning nor the sound of das Lied. Or perhaps some interference was caused by the fact that we use “lied” in English to talk about a type of music, but keep the English pronunciation so that it matches the past tense for “to lie” (lügen – past participle gelogen)?! (You may know the “lied” as the “art song” – it is usually a poem on a romantic or pastoral theme that has been set to music: http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/.)

Of course, doing the research for today’s post also allowed me to discover something else new and wonderful, namely this blog about die Rechtschreibung (“correct spelling” but somehow also something more than that since this was the result of a planned to change to German in 1996) : http://woerter.germanblogs.de/archive/2012/09/23/es-tut-mir-leid-oder-es-tut-mir-leid-wie-schreibt-man-das-richtig.htm I have to say that I am impressed that someone would make a series of videos about spelling – Rechtschreib TV.

Not to be too critical of the Eurovision, as it is certainly a cultural phenomenon worth understanding – Abba got their start this way and Bonnie Tyler is performing this year’s British entry – if for no other reason than then one can say nil point with authority, but I have to think that there might be more value in watching a couple hours of Rechtschreib TV!

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