German Language Blog

German humor: English for runaways – Englisch für Fortgeschrittene Posted by on Aug 20, 2012 in Language, Uncategorized

English is a world language and it is the first foreign language Germans learn in school. Thus, most Germans can speak and understand English to a certain degree. Some Germans even make fun of the English language by spoofing it. The spoof is that they translate German compound words or phrases word by word. This spoof might derive from reality because Germans who are not that competent in English simply tend to verbalize the extra-linguistic world with their linguistic knowledge of German, that is, they make use of (unconscious) language rules that perfectly function in the German language but which should better be not applied to English. – By the way, scientifically it is a matter of fact that a native language does always influence the learning of a foreign language.

I have no idea if other speech communities do also make fun of English like we Germans. Maybe making fun of English in this way is rooted in the fact that German and English are genetically closely related. Although I am quite competent in English, I am faced from time to time with some difficulties and have to ask native speakers “Can you say that in English in the same we do in German?”

No matter whether you are a native speaker of English, I think that the following examples will give you some insight into the German language.



1. English for runaways – Englisch für Fortgeschrittene – English for advanced learners

The German word “fortgeschritten” (means “advanced” or “progressed” in English) is a very figurative term – just like the English word “runaway”, which is “der Ausreißer / die Ausreißerin” in German – and could depict a person who stepped further from where he or she has/had been.


2. to be heavy on the woodway – schwer auf dem Holzweg sein – to be totally barking up the wrong tree


3. All start is heavy! –  Aller Anfang ist schwer! – Every beginning is hard!


4. the far looking tower – Der Fernsehturm – the TV tower


5. Pig strong!  –  Saustark! – Smashing! (Exclamation)


6. the umbrella power – Die Schirmherrschaft – patronage


7. Thanks for the afterquestion. –  Danke für die Nachfrage – Thanks for asking/your concern.


8. the charactertrain – Der Charakterzug – character trait

The German word “Zug” is either train or trait in English.


9. the throughholdingfortune –  Das Durchhaltevermögen – endurance

The German word “Vermögen” can either mean fortune / asset or capability.


10. the hightimeduo – Das Hochzeitspaar – bridal couple


11. the headstoneplaster –  Das Kopfsteinpflaster – cobblestone


12. the afterbeatfactory –  Das Nachschlagewerk – reference book


13. the crytest – Die Weinprobe – wine tasting


14. flower power – Blumendünger – flower fertilizer


15. I break together! – Ich brech zusammen! – I crack up (with laughter)!


16. That’s me sausage. – Das ist mir Wurst.


17. onagainseeauf Wiedersehen


18. Softegg! – Weichei! – Wimp!


19. the sleepattrain – der Schlafanzug – pajama


20. Take yourself in eight! – Nimm dich in Acht! – You’d better watch out!

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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. joseph:

    thanks. this is very helpful

  2. Marek:

    A student of English whom I taught many years ago and who was from Austria told the class that German has many “speakwords”, much as English, and she found some of the latter quite confusing.

    When I gently corrected her use of “speakwords” as a language inteference error from the German “Sprichwoerter”, she swore up and down that not only was I (a native English speaker!!!) WRONG, but that the word exists in her dictionary, what’s more, that her Austrian-born Gymnasium teacher told her that this was the correct translation. I then suggested she might wish to use the word “proverb” instead, at which point she stated that “speakwords” and “proverbs” both mean something different:-)

    Seems Teutonic arrogance knows no boundsLOL