Nothing for Ungood/Ein Amerikaner in Deutschland

John, who wisely remains anonymous apart from his first name, has a weblog I will be visiting again.

The subheading, and usual topic, is ‘German quirks from an American perspective’.

In theory there is nothing wrong with learning England’s version of English, just like there is nothing wrong with learning that Swiss language Rhaeto-Romanic . It can be done, but it is just not a worthwhile pursuit. English is the world language because of America, not because of England, so it only makes sense to learn America’s version.

In German schools you will receive bad marks for speaking with an American accent or using American spelling if you picked it up during your high school year in the States. Instead you should be receiving bonus points for learning the standards of a world economic and cultural super power. Mickey Mouse doesn’t speak with a British accent.

(I’m not sure what he means by an American dialect, though – I think he made that up)

(Via Heidelbergerin)

12 thoughts on “Nothing for Ungood/Ein Amerikaner in Deutschland

  1. Could this be described as cultural imperialism? :-P

    On a more serious note, I do agree that students should not be punished for using American spelling and idioms but they should be encouraged to do so consistently. Using one or the other is OK but mixing them is a bit worse. Admitted that I sometimes tend to be guilty of it as well.

    • He has a tendency to exaggerate for comic effect. And I am sure there are some schools that insist on BrE, but how many? Where I taught, we accepted both – as far as we could – and we had British and American teachers both. I remember some colleagues had a marking problem on final exams because the British colleagues didn’t realize that BrE carriage of a train can be a car in AmE.

      As for consistency, we only ever treated inconsistency as one mistake.

      • Back in the pre-historical days of my grammar school my English teacher told me that it would be OK to write elevator instead of lift but in that case I should not write about going to the cinema but to the movies in next sentence.

        • It’s getting difficult to be consistent in written texts, because so many American terms are used in the UK – movies, for instance, although not elevator.
          In other news, the Bardentreffen in Nuremberg, which I do not think I will get to, has a large Finnish component.

          • No Bardentreffen for me either. I sail to Tallinn tomorrow morning and travel a few days with the [url=]Kinobuss[/url]. ;-)

  2. Me again. I sympathise with John’s points. But he falls into the mega-size North American trap of subsuming Canada into his propositions. Will German also punish students for a Canadian ‘accent’ or spelling or using Anglo-Saxon instead of Canadian-French mathematical symbols e.g. commas instead of full stops: 100.000 = 100,000?

    Maybe. But even most Brits can’t tell the difference between Canadian and US accents.

    Also, as a corollary, German schools – even in Surrey – shouldn’t mark down students for using regional Swiss, Liechtenstein and Austrian German word-variations – nothing to do with the Duden uniform spelling reforms. But they do.

    And then there’s the question of fine Scots legal prose being questioned South of the Border …..

    • Better than what Riccardo saw, no doubt, but one might quibble. Is no. 3 really correctly rendered? Figurenschmuck isn’t figured decoration, is it, but I suppose as long as you can see it, the mistake won’t create any problems. Should the Muster be plural, or doesn’t it matter?

  3. Well-spotted. No. 3 is quite a ‘free’ translation – BTW it should be nachgegangen in German.

    No. 5 should be patterns’ harmony or, to avoid the possessive, harmony of the patterns, namely in the plural as you indicate.

    No. 6 – yes, *figural* decoration shows up in our DE/EN Art History and Archaeology dictionary by Mary L. Apelt.

    Riccardo has also put me right on his own blog over the non-coincidence of the Klimt. He visited the Lower Belvedere around Christmas Time, almost a month before the Power of Ornament exhibition started on 21 January at the Orangerie – which makes me wonder whether the same translator(s)was or were commissioned for the end of the gallery.

    Despite the translation blemishes, I learned a lot about translation technique and, now, not how to do it. PS I just hope no translator or interpreter visiting Vienna starts criticising the – IMO very good – DE/EN translations or summaries at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Naturhistorisches Museum right opposite.

  4. Very interesting — we are glad to see that we are not the only ones collecting mistakes for our translation mistakes blog ( and out of intellectual curiousity. I am currently in Vienna, and we already have some pictures of bad translations, including the Sisi museum and Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. However, we’ve also seen many excellent translations in Vienna’s cultural institutions!

    • It’s a good idea to have a separate site for trnaslation errors, or else you run the danger of readers associating your own translation with errors. I was about to refer you to [url=]Alfonso el Idiota[/url], but I see he has picked you up on the radar already.

  5. Then, Judy, try the 3-storey Wien Museum on Karlsplatz. I’m afraid you are too late for the special exhibition – which ended yesterday – of Glanzst

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