10 Denglish words

German is full of anglicisms, English words which have been adopted into the German language. These words are sometimes called ‘Denglish’ as they are a mix of German (Deutsch) and English. Many of these words are used in the same way in both languages, but some are used differently and could cause confusion. Here’s a summary of Denglish words that do not have the same meaning in German and English:

1. Home office

This is one is everywhere at the moment! In German it’s possible to say you “have home office”, but in English, the only time we would use “home office” is to describe the room in which you work in at home. The action is most commonly described as “working from home” (WFH), but you might also hear native speakers talk about “home working”, “remote working” or “teleworking”.

2. Handy

This is a classic Denglish word. It seems logical that in Germany a small phone that you can hold in your hand would be called a “handy”, but in fact in English “handy” means something is practical or useful.

In English we just say “phone”, or maybe “mobile phone” (UK) or “cell phone” (US).

3. Beamer

“Beamer” is another word that seems logical, but may leave native speakers of English confused. What German refers to as a “beamer” is called a “projector” in English.

4. Peeling

One of the worst examples of Denglish gone wrong! German uses the word “peeling” to describe a scrub you use on your skin to remove dead cells and make your skin softer. In English we call this an “exfoliator”; the verb is “exfoliate”. The verb “peel” gives the idea that a whole layer is removed, like when you peel an orange. Not what you want when you buy a skincare product!

5. Oldtimer

In German, an “oldtimer” is a vintage car, but in English an “old-timer” describes a person who has been doing something for a very long time and who is therefore usually good at that thing.

6. Trolley

Whilst German speakers imagine a small suitcase with wheels that you can pull along when they hear the word “trolley”, English speakers will think of the large containers on wheels they use in the supermarket to put their shopping in or at the airport to put big suitcases on. In English, the small cases would just be called a “suitcase” or a “wheelie suitcase”.

7. Controlling

In a business context, you might hear people talking about the “controlling” department in German. In English we would call this “management accounting”, or more generally “accounting” or perhaps even just “finance”.

8. Shooting

It’s quite common for German to take English verbs and add an ‘ing’ to turn them into countable nouns. For example, while German speakers would talk about a “photo shooting”, English speakers say “photo shoot”. This is one to be particularly careful with because in English “a shooting” means someone is shot with a gun.

Other examples include “a casting” and “a voting”.

9. Open air

Whilst German has adopted “Open Air” as a noun to mean any event outside, in English it is still only used as an adjective, e.g. “open-air concert”, “open-air cinema”.

10. Mobbing

In German, “mobbing” has come to mean bullying, to be unkind to someone for a long time. However, in English “mobbing” means a group surrounds someone, either because they are angry and want to attack that person, or possibly because they are a fan of that person and want to get close to them.


For more examples of English/German false friends, take a look at this post.

Can you think of any more Denglish words? Feel free to share them below.

Top 10 mispronounced words

When learning a language, it’s not enough to be able to read and write new words. We also have to be able to pronounce them correctly. Long words can be particularly difficult to say correctly, especially if they are similar – but slightly different – to words in your own language. He’s a list of words that are commonly mispronounced in English and some tips for saying them correctly.

1. purchase

Learners often pronounce this word as “pur-CHASE”, but actually the strong sound is at the beginning: “PUR-chus”. The “a” is a very short, weak sound. There’s more information about this sound here.

2. executive

Lots of learners pronounce this word “ex-e-CUT-ive”, but the strong sound should be on the second syllable: “ex-EC-u-tive”.

3. analysis

The verb “analyse” has a long final syllable and the “y” is pronounced like “eye”, but in the noun, that sound is shorter and the strong sound is earlier in the word: “a-NA-li-sis” (not “a-na-LYSE-is”).

4. comfortable

This is a difficult word to pronounce because we don’t really say what we see. Many learners say “com-for-TAB-el”, but we only pronounce this word with three syllables: “COMFT-a-bel”. The strong sound is also on the first syllable.

5. interesting

This word can cause similar problems. It should be pronounced as three syllables with the strong sound at the beginning: “IN-trest-ing” (not “in-te-REST-ing”.)

6. organisation

This is a very universal word in lots of languages, but the “a” sound is often mispronounced to sound like “can” when it should be a very short “uh” sound. You can read more about this sound here. The word is pronounced like this: “or-gn-eye-ZAY-shun”.

7. half

It looks like simple, but this word can cause difficulties, especially when telling the time. The secret is that the “l” is not pronounced, so we actually say “harf”.

8. display

Whilst this word may be used in other languages to describe the screen of an electronic item, it is sometimes stressed differently in those languages. In English, the strong sound should be at the end, i.e. “disPLAY” (not “DISplay”).

9. make-up

This word is similar. In “MAKE-up” the strong sound should be at the beginning, though some other languages that have adopted this word stress the second syllable.

10. clothes

This is a tricky word because we have to combined a voiced ‘th’ and ‘z’ sound. To do this, practise saying “th” like in “the” and “those” and then add a “z” to the end. We move the tongue back slightly in the mouth to move from the first sound to the second. When you feel confident with this, try adding the “clo” sound to the beginning. There is only one syllable in this word: “clothz” (not “clothe-iz”).


Which English words do you find most difficult to pronounce? Feel free to share in the comments below!

By or until?

Should you promise to finish your homework by next week or until next week? Will you send somebody an email by or until tomorrow? Many learners find these two words confusing, particularly because some languages such as German use the same word for both concepts. Here’s a short explanation of the key differences.

By

“By” describes the time before which something is completed. For example, in the sentence “Please finish your homework by Friday”, the homework can be finished on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, any time before Friday. The important thing is that it is finished before then; exactly when is not relevant.

Examples:

  • I need to finish my project by the end of the week.
  • We must deliver the parcel by this evening.
  • You need to book the tickets by Wednesday to get a discount.
  • Could you send me the information by Saturday?

Until

“Until” describes an action that is in progress and will remain in progress up to a point. For example, “I worked until 5 o’clock yesterday” means the working was an ongoing process that continued until 5 o’clock and only stopped at that time. I could also say, “My friend is on holiday until Friday”. They are on holiday now and will stop being on holiday on Friday.

Examples:

  • I will be in a meeting until 5pm this afternoon.
  • They’re staying in Madrid until Sunday.
  • We will be on the train until midday.
  • The party will last until midnight.

Can you think of any more examples with by and until? Or do you have any more questions about this subject? Share them in the comments below.

How to master conditional sentences

Conditional sentences are part of most English books and courses. There are different types with different names and different rules. The name can sound scary, but there are just a few tips and tricks to use to become a conditional sentences expert. Below, I’ve broken these types of sentences down into categories to make it easier to decide which to use.

Things that are always true

When something is always true, we use the present simple in both halves of the sentence. For example:

  • If I’m tired, I go to bed early.
  • If it’s cold outside, I wear a coat.
  • If he’s bored, he plays on his phone.
  • If we get lost, we ask for directions.

In these sentences, we could also use when instead of if and the meaning is the same. Here are more tips on using if and when.

We can also swap all of these sentences round and the meaning stays the same. For example:

  • I go to bed early if I’m tired.

Things that are possible and likely

When something could really happen in the future, we use the present simple in the if half of the sentence and will (or might or may) in the other half. For example:

  • If it rains tomorrow, I’ll stay at home.
  • If I miss the bus, I’ll walk.
  • I’ll give her the book if I see her.
  • They’ll reserve a table if they see a good restaurant.

We can’t use when in these sentences. In most cases, we can’t use if and will in the same half of the sentence. If and will don’t like each other!

Things that are unreal or unlikely

If something is not realistic or not likely to happen, we use the past simple in the if half of the sentence and would or could in the other half. Here are some examples:

  • If I had a car like that, my friends would be jealous!
  • We would be very angry if they lost the key.
  • If I won the lottery, I would buy a boat.
  • I would change the world if I were President.

Again, it’s not possible to use when in these sentences. We should keep if and would in separate sentence halves.

Were or was?

Very often when we talk about unreal or unlikely sentences, we use were instead of was, e.g.:

  • If I were rich, I would buy this house.
  • If I were you, I would forget about it.
  • We would give him the job if he were qualified.
  • I would go out if the weather were better.

When we speak, we sometimes also use was in these sentences.

How do I know what’s possible or likely?

Sometimes it’s not clear if I’m talking about something realistic or unrealistic. In the sentence I would change the world if I were President, it’s clear that this is an unlikely sentence – for most of us! The only option is to use the past simple and would to show that I don’t think this will happen.

But what about this sentence: If it rains tomorrow, I’ll stay at home? In this example, the speaker thinks it’s possible that it could rain tomorrow. But if they thought this was impossible (maybe they’ve checked the weather forecast), they could say: If it rained tomorrow, I would stay at home.

Things in the past

If we’re talking about an unreal situation past, something that didn’t happen and we’re speculating about the possible consequences, we use the past perfect in the if part of the sentence and would/could have + past participle (third form) in the other half.

  • If you hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known.
  • If they hadn’t been late, we would have finished on time.
  • I would have gone on holiday if my flight hadn’t been cancelled.
  • He would have bought the phone if it hadn’t been so expensive.

Here again we can only use if and not when. None of the actions in these sentences can be changed because everything is in the past.

Things in the past affecting now

It’s also possible to combine different types of if sentences to show the effect of the past on now, e.g.:

  • If I had studied more, I would be better prepared.
  • If you had gone to bed earlier, you wouldn’t be so tired now.
  • They’d be fitter if they had done sport more often.
  • He could go home early if he’d worked harder yesterday.

In the if half of the sentence we use the past perfect; in the other half we use would or could and the base form of the main verb.


Do you have more tips for using these sentences? Or do you have any questions about this topic? I’d love to read them!

How to improve your reading skills

Reading is an excellent way to learn new words, learn how native speakers write and improve your language level. Reading regularly can help develop a ‘feeling’ for English. However, reading is also a skill we can learn and there are some techniques that can make it easier. Here are a few tips I give to my students to help them with reading practice.

  1. Look for clues before you read.

Before you read a text, look for clues about what the writer will say. Look at any pictures with the text. What is the title? Will the writer give information or their opinion? Or is it a story? What do you know about this topic already? What words do you think you will see in the text? Maybe not all our ideas will be correct, but thinking about the topic before you read the text helps us to understand more.

2. Read the text more than once.

If you’re reading a short text or news article, read it more than once. The first time, just read quickly for the main points in the text. Then the second time, you can read more slowly and look at the details in the text.

3. You don’t need to understand every word.

It’s natural to want to understand every word when you read a text in your new language, but this isn’t necessary to understand the text. In our native languages there are words we don’t understand, but we still understand the sentence or text as a whole. It’s also a lot of work to look up every new word in the dictionary. Only look up a new word if it’s repeated a lot or if it’s important for the meaning of part of the text.

4. Use what you know.

If you don’t know a word, use what you know. Does it look like another word you know in English? Or does it look like a word in your own language or in Latin? Does the word have a prefix or suffix (groups of letters at the beginning or end) you know?

Use your knowledge of the topic. What would fit in the sentence? For example, in the sentence ‘At school the —— help the students learn’ I can use my knowledge to guess that the word is teachers.

5. Look at the whole sentence.

If we look at the whole sentence, we can often see what kind of word a new word is. For example, in the sentence ‘At school the —— help the students learn‘ the unknown word is after an article and before a verb, so I can guess that it’s a noun and the subject of a sentence. In the sentence ‘In the evening I —– TV’ there is no other verb in the sentence, so we know this word must be a verb.

6. Look back and ahead.

If we don’t understand a word or part of a sentence, we can often find clues in the sentences before or afterwards. For example, the unknown word in this sentence is not clear: ‘This city is known for its ——-.’ Lots of words could fit this sentence! But if we read the next sentence, we understand the meaning: ‘These small bears look for food in rubbish bins.’

7. Test your ideas.

When we have some ideas what a word could mean, we can test them. Put your idea into the sentence and continue reading. If the idea still fits, it could be correct!

8. Have fun!

My last tip is to choose a text you are interested in. Learning a language should be fun and it’s more motivating to read about topics you want to learn about. Here are some good websites written for people learning English, but there are also so many websites, news sites and blogs out there. There really is something for everyone.


What are your favourite things to read in English? Do you have more tips for improving reading skills?

Four websites to practise reading in English

Reading is a great way to improve your vocabulary, see how structures are used and develop a feeling for a language and how native speakers write. Reading is also very easy to practise online by yourself; there are thousands of texts out there to read!

If you don’t feel confident enough to read news stories and other websites, you could try some texts for people learning English. Ideally, you should be able to understand the main points of a text without a dictionary.

My students often ask what they can read to practise, so I have made a short list of some of the sites I would recommend. (I don’t have any connections with these sites; they’re just my preferences.)

Breaking News English

Levels: beginner – advanced

Text length: short

I often ask my students to read texts from Breaking News English. Every two or three days there is a new story written at a number of different levels. Sometimes they are stories you read in the newspaper; sometimes they are funny or interesting stories from around the world. The great thing about this website is the texts are very short, so it doesn’t take long to read a story. Because each text is available at different levels, you can read the right level for you. For example, if a text at Level 4 is too easy, you can just switch to Level 5. (Level 0 is easiest and Level 6 is most difficult.)

News in Levels

Levels: lower intermediate – advanced

Text length: short – medium

News in Levels also has lots of short news stories. Each story is written at three levels. (Level 1 is the easiest and Level 3 is the most difficult.) The best thing about this site is that they describe the most difficult words at the end of the text, so you don’t need to look in a dictionary. There are also short videos that go with the texts. You can use these as listening practice or to practise pronunciation.

British Council

Levels: beginner – advanced

Text length: medium – long

The British Council has so many great resources for practising English. Their reading section is divided into levels. In each level, you can choose a text that interests you. The texts are about everyday life and general interest topics. What I really like about this site are the exercises for each text. You can do them interactively online, or you can download all the activities and the text as a PDF. You can also check the answers yourself, so it’s like a mini English lesson.

Cambridge English

Levels: beginner – advanced

Text length: short – medium

Cambridge English, who write lots of exams for people learning English, also have some nice reading activities. You can filter the activities by level and how long they last. Most of the activities are on everyday topics. In each activity, you read a text and then do a multiple choice quiz to check what you’ve learnt. It’s a great way to check what you understand.


These are just a few of the many websites out there. I’d love to hear about the websites you use to practise reading! 🙂

Four apps for learning vocabulary

We have our smartphones with us all the time, so what better to learn new words than with vocabulary apps. When we learn new words, it’s important to be active and to review them regularly. Apps are perfect for practising for short periods of time wherever you are – and having fun at the same time! Some apps have sets of vocabulary to learn; others let you add your own. There are so many out there, it can be hard to choose one. I’ve made a list of my favourite apps for learning new vocabulary on the go. (I don’t have links to these apps; they’re just my preferences.)

Quizlet

I love using this app with my students. You can create your own sets of vocabulary or use sets made by other people. I would recommend organising the sets by theme, such as restaurants or shopping, and writing a description for each new word in English instead of translating the word into your native language. This will help you to think in English. You can also add pictures from the Quizlet library to help.

Once you’ve created sets of vocabulary, you can test yourself by looking at the ‘cards’, playing games or testing yourself with a quiz. It’s possible to share sets of vocabulary too – perfect for learning with friends and classmates.

Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge (British Council)

This app is excellent for reviewing vocabulary for certain situations. There are three modes: grammar, words and spelling. In the words section, you can choose from different categories, such as restaurants, hobbies, shopping, idioms, etc. There are three levels for each category (but ‘easy’ is not suitable for beginners). You then play multiple-choice quizzes against the clock. When time is up, you can review the vocabulary from that round.

The spelling mode is also a good way to check you know how to write words. Here, there are no categories; you are given a random selection of words. You choose the correct word from two options.

In addition, the grammar mode provides multiple-choice questions on grammar topics such as prepositions, irregular verbs, modal verbs, and many more.

English Essential Vocabulary Builder

The Essential Vocabulary Builder helps lower level learners practise the most important words needed to communicate in English. First, you work through a selection of words and mark which ones you know and which ones are new. You can then complete multiple-choice activities to check you know the meaning and spelling of new words. The apps gives simple definitions and examples in context, and it’s easy to track progress over time.

WordUp Vocabulary

When you start using WordUp, you take a test to check your level. You can then decide how many words you would like to learn each day and whether you would like to see translations of words you’re learning (I would recommend English definitions).

The app then suggests words to learn. You can learn by reading the definition and example sentences. What I really like about the app is that it shows famous quotations and lines from films and songs that include this word. This is great for remembering new vocabulary!

When you think you know a word, you can test yourself with multiple-choice question or simply say you already know the word. The app will then show the word a few days later so you can review it.


What are your favourite apps for learning vocabulary? I’d love to hear about your experiences with these or other apps!

How to get the most out of online language classes

Have your language lessons moved online? Or have you started taking a new course with an online platform? Learning online is becoming more and more popular, and in many areas it may be the only way to take classes at the moment. However, it can feel a little different to a face-to-face course, so I’ve put together a checklist to help you get the most out of your online classes.

Practice makes perfect

Before starting online lessons, check what platform you’re going to use. Find out if you need to download any software and if possible, test it before the lesson. There are also lots of YouTube tutorials on how to use platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Webex or Hangouts.

Equipment

If you can, it’s best to use a laptop or desktop computer. The screen is bigger and it’s easier to type or share documents. However, a phone or tablet will also work well with most platforms.

Headsets can help to make sure you can hear your teacher well and they can hear you. They also reduce background noise. The headset that came with your mobile phone is fine for this!

If possible, connect to the internet with an ethernet cable rather than wifi. This will make the connection more stable by linking your computer directly to the router.

Lights, camera, action!

It will help your teacher if you use a camera. They can see if you understand well, and it makes the lesson more natural. If you’re in a group, it’s also nice to see your classmates. It’s best to sit somewhere light, and position your camera at eye-level. Don’t sit too close to the camera.

Preparation is key

Aim to come to the ‘classroom’ five minutes before the lesson starts. That way, if you have problems connecting, you won’t lose any lesson time. This is especially important for the first online lesson.

Close any documents or programmes you don’t need as they can slow down your device.

Prepare your workspace as you would if you went to class: make sure you have paper and a pen, a drink, and switch your phone to silent.

Keep calm and carry on

Don’t worry if you have problems with the platform or your device. Often leaving the platform and coming back again solves the problem. If there’s a problem with your device, you could try restarting it. If the connection is bad, try using an ethernet cable or turning the router off and on again.

If you can’t hear the teacher or other students well, try using the chat box to ask for help or give others tips. Here are some useful phrases to use in online classes.

Organisation

Check with your teacher which notes they will send you, so you know what you should write down during the lesson. Your teacher may send you notes or homework after your lesson, so it’s a good idea to have a folder where you save all these documents together. Some students like to print them out too.

Staying in touch

Check you know how to contact your teacher or school outside of the lessons. This is important in case you have questions, can’t come to a lesson or have technical problems.

If you don’t already have one, you could set up a group chat on an instant messaging app for everyone in your class. This is a good way to catch up on anything you miss in class or homework. It’s also great for practising the language with your classmates.


Learning online may feel different to face-to-face lessons, but it can be a great opportunity to stay in touch with others and keep learning while many of us are at home.

Do you have any other tips for online language classes?

Essential phrases for your English class

Starting a new class can be scary. What if I don’t understand the teacher? What if I forget how to ask for something? What if I can’t talk to the other students? Being prepared can help us feel more confident in a new situation. Here are some phrases to help you in the classroom.

To the teacher

  • What does… mean? (You don’t understand a word.)
  • How do you spell…..? (You don’t know how to write a word.)
  • How do you say this word? (You don’t know how the word sounds.)
  • Can you repeat it?
  • I’ve finished.
  • Can you help me with question …?
  • I don’t understand this question.
  • Where is….?
  • I didn’t hear…
  • What page are we on?

Getting to know other students

  • What’s your name?
  • Where are you from?
  • What’s your job?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Have you been to this school before?
  • Have you long have you been learning English?

Working together with other students

  • Shall we work together?
  • What do you think about question …?
  • Can you help me with question …?
  • Would you like to do question/role …?
  • Do you have a pen/piece of paper?

Discussions

  • What do you think about…?
  • What’s your opinion?
  • I agree/disagree.
  • I see your point, but …
  • That’s a good point.
  • Have you thought about …?

Online classes

  • Can you hear/see me?
  • How do I turn on the microphone/camera?
  • How do I leave the meeting?
  • How do I mute the microphone?
  • I can’t hear/see you (clearly).
  • The connection is poor.
  • The connection stopped.
  • I will re-start the meeting.

Which of these phrases do you use in class? Can you think of more to add to the list?

Say or tell?

Many languages have just one verb to express both say and tell, but in English there is an important difference between the two. Confusing the two can sometimes change the meaning of the sentence. But, don’t fear! There is a simple trick to remember when to use each verb.

The basic rule is we say something, but we tell someone something.

I said (that) I was leaving.

I told my friend (that) I was leaving.

That is optional in these sentences.

If we use the verb say and wanted to include the person, we need to before the person’s name.

I said to my friend (that) I was leaving.

More example sentences:

We said (that) the meeting room was booked.

We told our colleague (that) the meeting room was booked.

We said to our colleague (that) the meeting room was booked.

They said (that) they would go.

They told us (that) they would go.

They said to us (that) they would go.

Phrases with tell

There are also some special phrases with the verb tell, for example:

  • to tell the truth
  • to tell a lie
  • to tell the difference
  • to tell the time
  • to tell tales

Can you think of more examples?

Are there any other verbs you find difficult to use in English?