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Germans love English adverts – but don’t understand them

Most Germans don’t understand English phrases when they appear in advertising but find them cool and interesting anyway.

Germans love English adverts - but don't understand them
Photo: Pixabay

German advertising is littered with “Denglisch” – English phrases used in the middle of German sentences.

As Germans usually have a good grasp of the basics of the world language, this ploy on the part of the marketing men may seem like sound business.

But in study released by Endmark on Monday, almost two-thirds of Germans (62 percent) admitted they don’t understand what the English in adverts means, while 72 percent were not actually able to translate the English correctly into German when put to the test.

Strangely though people surveyed were more likely to rate an English pun like Lindt chocolate’s “Nice to sweet you” as interesting than a straightforward German phrase like Ferrero’s “Großer Tag, Kleine Pause” (Big day. Small break) – despite not understanding the English.

An extreme example was Urban Decay’s “beauty with an edge” logo which only one in every six Germans understood but which a majority said they liked.

The study, which tested slogans by 20 leading brands in the German market, showed just how prevalent English is as a means of lending a product prestige – with only six of the brands deploying German catchphrases.

Speaking of advertising, one of the best German television adverts of recent years played on the sometimes suspect language skills of the people of the Bundesrepublik by making fun of their difficulty with the English 'th' and 's' sounds. 

Germans’ English skills have slowly been improving over recent years, although the country did drop out of the top ten of global survey of English proficiency in countries where it is a second language in a survey published in November 2015.

SEE ALSO: 7 ways Germans get English totally wrong

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For members

ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Qualcosa non torna’

Does this phrase add up to you?

Italian expression of the day: 'Qualcosa non torna'

Ever get the feeling that things aren’t quite right, that perhaps you’re missing something, that something fishy might be going on?

In Italian you can express that with the phrase qualcosa non torna (‘qual-KOH-zah-non-TORR-na’).

Qualcosa you’ll probably recognise as meaning ‘something’, and non of course here means ‘doesn’t’, so the slight wild card for anglophones is the verb torna.

That’s because tornare means ‘to return’ in most contexts – but it can also mean to balance, to add up.

Ho calcolato le spese, il conto torna.
I added up the costs, the bill checks out.

I conti dell’azienda tornano.
The company’s accounts add up.

The Math Seems To Check Out! GIF - The House Will Ferrell The Math Seems To Check Out GIFs

The word can also refer more nebulously to something sounding or feeling right – or not.

Secondo me c’è qualche parte del mio discorso che ancora non torna.
I think there are parts of my speech that still aren’t quite right.

And when something doesn’t torna – that’s when you know things are off. It’s the kind of expression you’re likely to hear in detective shows or true crime podcasts. 

Qualcosa non torna nel loro racconto.
Something about their story’s off.

C’è solo una cosa che non torna.
There’s just one thing that doesn’t add up.

It’s similar to how we can talk in English about someone’s account of an event not ‘squaring’ with the facts, and in fact you can also use that metaphor in Italian – qualcosa non quadra (‘qual-KOH-zah-non-QUAHD-ra’) – to mean the same thing as qualcosa non torna.

Trash Italiano Simona Ventura GIF - Trash Italiano Simona Ventura Qualcosa Non Quadra GIFs

You can adjust either phrase slightly to say ‘things don’t add up’, in the plural: this time you’ll want le cose instead of qualcosa, and to conjugate the tornare or the quadrare in their plural forms.

Ci sono molte cose che non tornano in quest’affare.
There are a lot of things about this affair that don’t add up.

Le loro storie non quadrano.
Their stories don’t square.

You can also add pronouns into the phrase to talk about something seeming off ‘to you’ or anyone else.

La sua storia ti torna?
Does his story add up to you?

C’è qualcosa in tutto questo che non mi torna.
There’s something about all this that doesn’t seem right to me.

alfonso qualcosa non mi torna GIF by Isola dei Famosi

The next time something strange is afoot, you’ll know just how to talk about it in Italian. Montalbano, move aside…

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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