Why are Germans among the worst speakers of English?

Why?   Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:07 am GMT
English and German are very closely related, yet beyond a certain level Germans speak English far worse than speakers of other languages. Whether Swedish, Spanish or Chinese, they all speak it better. Native German speakers can live in an English speaking country for years and they will sound stunted because of their eternal inability to get the English tense/aspect system. Speakers of other languages seem to be able to get it more easily, because their own languages are more akin.

The fact is that a speaker of a far Eastern language is likely to get English much more than a speaker of German, because the German tense/aspect system is so stunted that it makes it incredibally difficult for any German speaker to ever truly get English. They just can't, unless they have a very good ear.
Franco   Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:08 am GMT
I'm puzzled to read that the Germans are bad English speakers. I thought that German people speak better English than let's say the Spanish, French and Italian. Certainly they don't speak English as well as the Dutch or the Norweigans, but that's due in my opinion to the fact that Germany is a relatively big country and German a relevant language in Europe, not like Dutch , Swedish or Norweigan. People in small countries tend to be better at speaking foreign languages than those who live in big nations. Maybe the reason is that they can't rely on their own resources and trading with foreing people is specially vital for them. If what you say about the German inability to speak good English is true then it's good news for me since I'm learning German and this can only give more value to my German.
Qwaggmireland   Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:40 am GMT
Yes I have clocked that Krautz don't speak English as good as Dutchmen and Scandinavians but alldomwidewise, Germans are amongst the best speakers of English. In Europe only the British Welshers (Celts) and Dutch and Scandinavians speak better English bewieghed to Germans. This most likely something to do with Deutchland's whopping maniness.

Worldwidewise, Germans are among the worst speakers of English only in your dreamings.
PARISIEN   Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:48 am GMT
Please stop with stereotypes, both ways.

The Germans aren't by far the world's worst English speakers. But not the best either. In my experience I never found that for an equivalent education level and social position their English was significantly better than that of the French (both with a distinctively restricted grammar and poor vocabulary, which indeed denotes some lack of interest).

<< People in small countries tend to be better at speaking foreign languages than those who live in big nations. >>

-- This is somewhat true but you should proceed a little further. The ability to use a foreign language doesn't depend on the nature of your language and how many million people use it, it's way more related by the opinion people have of their native language. The Dutch are the best polyglots because of the very humble approach they have of their own tongue, which is for them just a matter of privacy and a subject of humorous jokes. The Flemish are supposed to speak the same language (with a considerably less outlandish phonetics) but it's for them an identity marker of primary significance, which is probably the reason why they cheerfully butcher any other language with a thick accent.

Just my two -cents.
Guest6   Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:19 pm GMT
I had a layover in a German airport, and everyone spoke very good English there. The worst speakers of English in Europe are the French by far. Even Russians and Spaniards speak more coherently despite their heavy accent.
Gate-crasher   Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:46 pm GMT
The OP's got a screw loose and the second poster's nailed it. Whoever travelled around Europe relying only on English for communicating with the natives will have noticed that the further North you go, the better (meaning, more fluently) people speak it, with Germany smack in the middle, being worse than Sweden or Holland, but much better than Italy or Spain.

Apart from the (sometimes distant) common lineage, the simple fact is that these Northern European countries are small, and linguistically isolated. I mean, if your Dutch, any 200km (a day trip) will take you to a different lincuistic universe. You might as well learn some lingua franca well and sometimes you'll learn a couple of those languages too (I've met Dutch who could speak passable German, French and italian).

I guess the OP is of Eastern Asian extraction and has some kind of grudge with the Germans. I've *never* seen an Eastern Asian, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, who spoke good English. Chinese, in particular, have trouble with grammar, intonation, vocabulary and, last but never least, pronunciation. I had to sit through meetings where I (as well as the rest of the audience) couldn't understand half of what one the participants, a Chinese lady, was seeing. The original Chinese torture.
Kelly   Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:04 pm GMT
German speak English lousily because everything in Germany is dubbed into High German (movies, sitcoms, soap operas, even talk shows like Ellen), so their exposure to English is limited to 2-3 school hours of British English a week.

Flemish, Dutch, Scandinavian or Slovenian people have more exposure to English, so they speak better English.

German accent is very marked, that's why German producers liked hiring American&British singers to sing in German bands, for example dance classics like Mr Vain (by Culture Beat), Be my Lover (by La Bouche), Where do you go (by No Mercy) all featured American and British singers although these groups technically were German.
Why?   Sat Jan 16, 2010 3:14 pm GMT
I'm not East Asian, I am British and English is my mother tongue
kay   Sat Jan 16, 2010 5:49 pm GMT
>>German accent is very marked, that's why German producers liked hiring American&British singers to sing in German bands, for example dance classics like Mr Vain (by Culture Beat), Be my Lover (by La Bouche), Where do you go (by No Mercy)<<

Lol, did you get stuck in the nineties?
4321   Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:11 pm GMT
Did you get stuck in a gay whorehouse of SF>?
Observer   Sat Jan 16, 2010 9:25 pm GMT
The reason it may seem they're bad is that even if they speak English for shit they still insist on speaking it, where as a Frenchman or Italian would be embarrassed and try to speak their own language. But the German keeps on spewing out his garbage!
german   Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:36 am GMT
You can me one time!

- ger. Du kannst mich mal!
Gate-crasher   Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:46 am GMT
<< I'm not East Asian, I am British and English is my mother tongue

Oh, so it's a football grudge then. Be serious now, how many Chinese have you ever seen who speak decent English? That said, it is indeed true that most Germans have a very thick accent when they speak English (and other languages as well). On the other hand, Americans and British also generally have terrible accents when speaking Spanish, French or Portuguese, so I guess you're not one to talk.
fraz   Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:45 pm GMT
A lot of young Germans do speak good English but there are many people in the country who are not confident in the language or cannot speak it at all. Taken as a whole, the Dutch and Scandanavians are far better English speakers than the Germans but that is down to English being a requirement for career and social advancement in the smaller countries. German is a major European language in its own right and there isn't the same pressing need for people in Germany to learn English.

As mentioned above, all films in Germany are dubbed into German while the Dutch watch the original language versions and can also pick up English TV broadcasts.

But overall I think there is a decent level of English spoken and understood in Germany, although going there with the attitude that "everyone speaks English" will likely see you come unstuck when stepping outside of the airport or hotel.
opinion   Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:50 pm GMT
In my opinion,English people must speak German better.