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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Anja here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common German questions.
The question for this lesson is: What are some of the most common “false friends” in German?
There are lots of words that look similar in English and German, but they don't always mean the same thing. It's pretty fitting that they're called “false friends,” because they can be deceptive!
Here are some of the most common ones, so you can avoid any miscommunication the next time you speak German!
Billionen in German means “trillion” not “billion.” So be careful when you’re reading financial information in the newspaper. For example, if you read Die Bürger müssen 30 Billionen Euro Steuern zahlen innerhalb eines Jahres,” that literally means, “The citizens have to pay 30 trillion euros in taxes in a year.”...That’s a big difference! The word “billion” in German is actually, Milliarden. Just make sure not to confuse it with “million!”
Next, Brand is “fire,” not “brand.”
For example, If you hear the sentence, Der Mann hat den Brand mit seiner Jacke gelöscht, he isn’t talking about the brand of his coat. That actually means, “The man extinguished the fire with his coat.” The word “brand” in German actually is Marke.
If you’re in a hurry, be careful not to use the word fast, which actually means “almost.” So, for example, Das ist fast alles doesn’t mean “It was done quickly.” It actually means, “It’s almost done.” “Fast” in German is actually schnell.
You should be really careful if you want to give someone a gift in German. This is because das Gift actually means “the poison.” So if you hear in a fairytale that, Die Hexe gab das Gift. it actually means “The witch gave the poison,” and not a nice present. That would be das Geschenk, “the gift.”
If you’re at the supermarket and overhear someone saying the word taste, it doesn’t mean they’re talking about eating. The word taste actually means “to feel” or “to touch” something. Like in this example--
Taste mal die Pfirsiche um sicher zu gehen dass sie reif sind. This means, “Feel the peaches to be sure they are ripe.” “To taste” in German is actually probieren.
Let’s do one more. If you hear someone say the word groß it doesn’t mean “gross.” It just means that something is “big.” For example, Das Haus ist groß. “The house is big.”
I hope that clears things up. Pretty interesting, right?
Please leave any more questions in the comments below and I'll try to answer them!
Tschüss, bis zum nächsten Mal! “Bye, see you next time!”